Sir Keir Starmer: The 'glitter protest' highlights need to improve security for politicians- Greg Wright
Consider this fact, m’lud. Since the Health and Safety at Work Act came into force in 1974 workplace fatalities in the UK have plummeted by around 88 per cent. The workplace of the 2020s is, in general, much safer than anything our ancestors encountered due to regulations that save lives.
The law forces employers to place a premium on protecting their staff. Apart from ensuring workers don’t come to grief on faulty machinery, employers have a legal obligation to stop staff being assaulted while on duty.
Most firms have rigorous security checks which prevent would-be attackers targeting employees. So why is it so easy for security breaches to occur around leading politicians? They have as much right to feel safe at work as the rest of us.
The underwhelming security response to the protester who disrupted Sir Keir Starmer’s speech at the Labour Party conference is a cause for concern
The heckler tipped glitter over Sir Keir and grabbed him just as he was about to begin his set-piece speech. The Labour leader told LBC radio there was a “struggle” on stage and he believed the protester was trying to pull him to the ground.
“It did feel a bit like a five-a-side moment where someone is trying to get the ball off me. Channelling the inner Arsenal obviously,” he said. A man has been arrested on suspicion of assault, breach of the peace and causing a public nuisance.
There was nothing comical about this incident, which must have brought back terrible memories for the families of Jo Cox and Sir David Amess who were murdered while serving their constituents.
Ms Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen, was killed by an evil fanatic with far-right views as she arrived for a constituency surgery in June 2016. In 2021, Sir David, who had been the long-serving MP for Southend West, was stabbed repeatedly by a terrorist who posed as a constituent during a surgery held in Leigh-on-Sea.
Brendan Cox, Ms Cox’s widower, said on Twitter: “No politician should have to put up with feeling physically threatened. Today it was glitter but the threat to politicians safety is too real to laugh it off.”
The “glitter incident” was a clumsy protest which Sir Keir handled with aplomb. However, the security response seemed terribly sluggish; for a few horrible seconds the leader of the opposition was alone on stage with a man who might have been brandishing a knife.
Here’s my solution. Britain has a formidable collection of security consultants who are skilled in keeping celebrities out of harm’s way. Let’s set up a task force comprising the brightest and best in the sector with the sole aim of protecting politicians. The task force could devise effective mechanisms for screening all potential attendees at MPs’ surgeries to see if they are a security risk and, where appropriate, provide round the clock surveillance, with a particular focus on times when politicians are on stage. An investment in this task force would be a wise use of taxpayers’ money. The murders of Jo Cox and Sir David Amess serve as terrible warnings from history.
Greg Wright is the deputy business editor of The Yorkshire Post