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The murder of Sir David Amess is an attack on our democracy

As the threat level against MPs is raised, Molly Duffy explores how attacks on our MPs are an attack on democracy itself

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Sir David Amess, the MP for Southend West, was tragically murdered on 15 October 2021 whilst carrying out a surgery in his constituency. This news shocked the nation and has evoked escalating fears among a number of MPs regarding their safety in such a position of power; Amess was killed while doing his job. Additionally, as the second murder of an MP in just five years, following the murder of Jo Cox in 2016, concerns regarding the security of lawmakers and the stability of democracy in Britain are expanding.

In recent years, hate crimes on Members of Parliament have been on the rise. In 2018, Neil Basu stated that 152 crimes had been reported between January and April 2019 by MPs, a figure that was 90 percent greater than the figure for the same period in 2018. These figures, alongside the murders of two MPs in the last five years, are most certainly cause for concern.

Furthermore, highlighting the extent of the situation and the vulnerable position of MPs at the moment, in light of the murder of Sir David Amess, the threat levels for MPs have been increased from “moderate”, meaning that an attack is possible but not likely, to “substantial”, which suggests that an attack is much more likely. This highlights the potential threat to MPs and democracy as a whole, as an attack will likely disrupt the democratic system.

Increasing fears of MPs security is evident as Kim Leadbeater, Jo Cox’s sister and MP for Batley and Spen, has said that her partner has proposed that she step down from her position in light of the murder of Sir David Amess. Clearly, the risks that now seem to surround being an MP are actively discouraging people from fulfilling or taking up this role.

The role of an MP generally revolves around controversy, with debate and differing opinions within Parliament being a key factor of democracy. In order to fulfill this, there are people who are open about taking controversial stances if this is what they believe in, and this is all part of the job as a representative in Parliament. MPs' jobs essentially revolve around making difficult decisions, judgements and pronouncing their opinions which not everyone is likely to agree with; thus, they are in a very high profile and potentially contentious position. It is without a doubt that MPs need to be protected for the work that they do as our lawmakers, yet the question is if enough is being done.

Jo Cox was murdered in 2016, just a week before the EU referendum vote, by Thomas Mair who was found to have far right beliefs and had been reading neo-Nazi material. Additionally, Sir David Amess was murdered by Ali Harbi, who was referred to the government’s Prevent scheme but was not on the current radar of MI5. The reasons for the attack are still uncertain. However, crucially, both Amess and Cox were murdered by people with potentially extremist views which raises a considerable threat to the stability of British democracy. MPs should be able to voice their opinions without the fear of those who disagree seeking retribution. A differing opinion does not entitle someone to commit murder.

MPs should feel safe as it is a vital component of our democracy that they are able to go about their business, appear in public carrying out work in their communities, and meet their constituents. Brendan Cox, husband of Jo Cox, spoke out on Twitter regarding the Amess murder and suggests that “attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself”.

In one attempt to improve the security of British lawmakers, the government watchdog has begun to edit and censor parts of MPs’ expenses to protect them. Obviously, this is good to see that more care is being taken to protect the security of the MPs, however, their expenses have no link to the murders of Jo Cox and Sir David Amess. Home Secretary Priti Patel has said that security will be provided for MPs' surgeries, however, this does not give them protection for the many other times that they appear in public whilst doing their jobs.

Certainly, more needs to be done to protect our MPs so that democracy in this country can remain healthy and stable. Without action, fears will continue to escalate and consequently, this could result in fewer people wanting to voice their concerns and opinions on key topics, out of potential threats of hate crimes or even hate comments. It is vital that lawmakers in Britain are able to continue to voice their opinions and concerns, because this is an essential part of our democracy that we don’t want to lose.

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1 Comment

Raphael Henry Posted on Wednesday 3 Nov 2021

I think Brendan Cox is the husband, not wife, of the late Jo Cox... Just thought I should mention. Congratulations on a great first article with Nouse!