Kim Leadbeater, who represents Batley and Spen, says MPs and their staff are “human beings too” with relatives now fearful for their safety in the wake of social media abuse and death threats.
Now Britain’s newest MP after winning a heated by-election in July, Ms Leadbeater says the kinder politics promised after her sister was shot and stabbed to death outside Birstall Library in June 2016 has not materialised.
Her emotive intervention in The Yorkshire Post today comes as MPs prepare to stand in sombre silence today to remember Sir David, 69, who was attending a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Southend, when stabbed to death.
A 25-year-old man, named as Ali Harbi Ali and the son of a former senior Somali government official, continues to be questioned on suspicion of murder under anti-terrorism laws. Two London properties continue to be searched by detectives.
Meanwhile police forces spent the weekend reviewing the security of all MPs after Westminster was left stunned and traumatised by the death of Sir David, a father-of-five and MP since 1983.
Last night the father of-five’s family said they had been left “absolutely broken” by the tragedy. “He was a patriot and a man of peace. So, we ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all,” they added.
“This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness. Whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand.
“As a family, we are trying to understand why this awful thing has occurred. Nobody should die in that way. Nobody.
“Please let some good come from this tragedy. We are absolutely broken, but we will survive and carry on for the sake of a wonderful and inspiring man.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel has now indicated that police could be called in to guard MPs when they meet voters in future at local surgeries.
She confirmed that a “whole spectrum” of measures are being considered include that “Could you have officers or some kind of protection while you’re holding your surgery?” she ventured.
MPs could also be asked to share their whereabouts at all times with police, the Cabinet minister and longstanding friend of Sir David said, while also not ruling out airport-style security.
“There are lots of things under consideration already,” said Mrs Patel who then disclosed that she, too, had been the recipient of abuse and threats from the day she was first elected to Parliament in 2010.
Mrs Patel also said that the review of social media laws could include the banning of anonymised accounts – “I want to look at everything” – before stressing the importance of MPs remaining accessible to the public.
“This should never, ever break that link between an elected representative and their democratic role, responsibility and duty to the people who elected them,” she added.
Today Ms Leadbeater praises West Yorkshire Police for the protection that its officers have provided her during “a very emotional few days” for her family.
“We don’t want to cut ourselves off, but we’re human beings too and we have to think of those closest to us who shouldn’t have to spend their time fearful for our safety,” she writes. “I want to be accessible to my constituents...but I can only do this if I feel safe. And I have a duty to protect my staff too.
“I have held lots of meetings since I was elected – out in the constituency and at my office, I have been to a wide variety of public events, and to the homes of constituents, and I desperately want to continue with this, but I hope people understand that in light of Friday’s tragic attack I will be putting safety at the forefront of all arrangements going forward. We have to find a way to protect both our democracy and those who work within it.”
She adds: “There is a bigger debate to be had about how we can do politics differently and work to remove the hatred and anger that can form the breeding ground for violence.”
Terror prevention policy needs reforming to thwart extremism
THE Government’s terror prevention scheme needs urgent improvement to make it more effective, a former cabinet minister has warned.
The Prevent initiative is under review amid suggestions that the suspect in the Sir David Amess murder investigation had previously been referred to the programme.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said that Prevent was being reviewed to ensure it was “fit for purpose” but her officials have refused to confirm whether the suspected killer was known to anti-terror experts.
Former justice secretary Robert Buckland said more co-operation between schools, the health service and other public agencies was required to ensure security forces can intervene early to prevent terror attacks.
Meanwhile senior Leeds imam Qari Asim, a govenrment adviser on Islamophobia, said: “We must not let this cowardly attack undermine our democracy and the values we hold as this is what the terrorists want. Whatever our belief, background or creed, we should be united as one community rejecting intolerance and violence.”
Pope’s tribute to Sir David Amess
THE POPE joined tributes to Sir David Amess as political opponents united in grief to pay tribute to the longstanding Tory MP universally known as ‘Mr Southend’.
Pope Francis used his weekly blessing at the Vatican to condemn the bow-and-arrrow attack in Norway, an Isis mosque bombing in Afghanistan and the attack on Sir David Amess at his constituency surgery.
“Last week, various attacks were carried out, for example, Norway, Afghanistan, England, which caused many dead and wounded,” he said.
“I express my closeness to the families of the victims and I pray, please, abandon the path of violence, which is always a loss, a defeat for everyone. Let us remember that violence begets violence.”
Sir David, 69, was a longstanding Catholic and the Pope’s remarks preceded a mass – and vigil – in Southend on Sunday afternoon.
It was the latest commemmoration after Sir David was stabbed to death at a methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea as he met residents at a constituency surgery – there are reports that the 25-year-old suspect being questioned by police had booked an appointment in advance.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer placed wreaths outside the church on Saturday morning.
They were joined by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, in a show of unity which was uncannily similar to the vigils and grief in Birstall after Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox was killed in similarly horrific circumstances in 2016.
A succession of MPs from all parties, some in tears, visited Southend over the weekend to pay their respects while many backed calls for the Essex coastal town to be finally designated a city – one of the many passionate campaigns led by Sir David.
Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app, receive exclusive members-only offers and access to all premium content and columns. Click here to subscribe.