Politics latest news: Online hate towards MPs is 'out of control', warns Dominic Raab




  • In World
  • 2021-10-17 23:52:48Z
  • By The Telegraph
Online hate towards MPs is
Online hate towards MPs is 'out of control', Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has said - Geoff Pugh  
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Online hate towards MPs is "out of control", Dominic Raab has warned after the murder of Sir David Amess.

The Justice Secretary noted the levels of abuse faced by MPs and said those most at risk of radicalisation had spent more time on the internet during the pandemic.

"The elephant in the room in all this is the online hate that we all get, it's out of control," he told Sky News. "I know the Home Secretary has talked about what more she wants to do there and the Online Harms Bill is going through pre-legislative scrutiny.

"There is certainly an element of more people who are at-risk and vulnerable because they've been spending more time online. I'm absolutely confident that intelligent services and the police are monitoring that with maximum energy and vigour."

Police and security services must adapt to the changing nature of threats, Mr Raab said, adding that a number of female MPs had stopped using Twitter because of "vile" abuse and threats.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will lead MPs' tributes to Sir David in the House of Commons from 3.30pm.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

08:47 AM

'Scum' comment made my heart sink, says Deputy Speaker

Dame Eleanor Laing's heart "sank" when Angela Rayner describe Conservative politicians as "scum" at a Labour conference event last month, the Deputy Speaker has said.

"I hesitate to get involved in that debate but my heart sank when I heard that, because it's bad enough when people who feel badly about politicians do it, or indeed those in the media," Dame Eleanor told Good Morning Britain.

Dame Eleanor Laing has criticised Angela Rayner and some journalists for how they portray politicians - File Photo
Dame Eleanor Laing has criticised Angela Rayner and some journalists for how they portray politicians - File Photo  

"Some of your colleagues are responsible for this, the insulting way in which they speak to politicians. But when one of our own does it, it's so much worse."

In October 2020 it was Dame Eleanor who reprimanded Ms Rayner in the House of Commons for using the word "scum" about a Tory MP who was speaking.

"From the frontbench we will not have remarks like that, not under any circumstances, no matter how heartfelt it might be - not at all," the Deputy Speaker said. Ms Rayner went on to apologise in a statement.

08:35 AM

Father of alleged jihadi suspected of killing Sir David Amess had himself faced Islamist threats

The father of the alleged jihadist being held on suspicion of murdering Sir David Amess had himself received death threats from Islamist terrorists, The Telegraph can reveal.

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, was continuing to be questioned on Sunday night in connection with the frenzied knife attack on the Tory MP, which is being treated as an alleged terrorist incident.

A police search team leaving the reported residence of Ali Harbi Ali, who is a suspect in the murder of David Amess - Leon Neal/Getty Images
A police search team leaving the reported residence of Ali Harbi Ali, who is a suspect in the murder of David Amess - Leon Neal/Getty Images  

But Ali's own father, Harbi Ali Kullane - a former director of communications for the prime minister's office in Somalia's Western-backed government - was previously targeted by Islamist radicals.

Somali government sources said that during his time as an official in the country's administration, Mr Kullane received numerous death threats from al-Shabaab, a terror movement that still controls parts of the country.

Martin Evans, Colin Freeman and Izzy Lyons have more here

08:25 AM

'We have been in denial about the violent sickness in British society'

As everybody debates the security of MPs and the tenor of our politics, we are in danger of missing a broader point, writes Nick Timothy. For we ought to be asking ourselves: what sort of society have we become?

Nick Timothy: We have failed to confront the reality we now face

08:15 AM

Chris Bryant: Politics has become more sour in last two decades

Politics has become more sour over the last two decades as a consequence of divisive debates and rhetoric, according to a Labour MP.

Chris Bryant said that even after the murder of Sir David, "the death threats haven't stopped" (see 8.10am). "Somebody has been arrested in relation to a death threat to me this weekend and that stemmed directly from what's happened in Southend.

"One of the sad things is in the last five years that's two colleagues. I think in my time in politics, the 20 years I've been in the House, politics has been more and more sour."

Mr Bryant said newspaper coverage labelling political opponents 'traitors' and 'enemies of the people' across the last decade has "poisoned the well of British politics".

Senior politicians are also responsible for the inflammation of tensions, the MP for Rhondda said. "Every time we spit venom in each other's face, in an interview or on social media, we contribute to that and make it worse. I do sometimes worry about the kind of nation we've become. We've had more murders in this country than the rest of Europe."

08:01 AM

Coming up in Westminster today

The House of Commons today returns from its recess after party conference season in the most tragic of circumstances.

Prayers will start the day in Parliament at 2.30pm, followed by a minute's silence in memory of Sir David Amess. Home Office questions will be taken at 2.35pm.

From 3.30pm onward Boris Johnson is to lead tributes among MPs to Sir David, with the House of Commons expected to adjourn at 5.30pm.

There will be a church service in memory of Sir David this evening, with a procession at 5.30pm before the service, at St. Margaret's at the Abbey, commences at 6pm.

An artwork at a Leigh-on-Sea skate park, simply called
An artwork at a Leigh-on-Sea skate park, simply called 'Why?  

07:55 AM

'Terrorism must not win and won't win'

Terrorism will not be allowed to get in the way of democracy, Sir Lindsay Hoyle has vowed.

In his interview with Sky's Kay Burley (see also 8.48am), the Speaker insisted that terrorism "mustn't win and won't win" in the face of "people who don't like our values".

"That's why it was so important David was holding his surgery," Sir Lindsay said. "That's why I held my surgery on Friday. I wanted to make sure my staff felt it was right for them to do as well. What we have got is a duty of care, not just to politicians but their family, their staff and constituents who came to that surgery."

Sir Lindsay Hoyle joined Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer and Priti Patel to lay wreaths in memory of the Southend West MP on Saturday - Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street
Sir Lindsay Hoyle joined Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer and Priti Patel to lay wreaths in memory of the Southend West MP on Saturday - Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street  

The Speaker warned against a "knee-jerk reaction" to the events of Friday afternoon and noted that a range of security measures which are already available may not have been used since the pandemic.

"I want to engage with MPs to say please take the measures we have available. There is security in place, there's even the ability to have private security in place... We've had that all along.

"Social media monitoring is very important, what's being said, what's out there, what are other people thinking. We've got to get MPs to engage with that."

07:48 AM

We need nicer politics, urges Sir Lindsay Hoyle

The Speaker of the House of Commons has called on senior politicians to mind their language as he calls for a "nicer, better politics" domestically and internationally.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle called for a legacy for Sir David Amess going forward, which would include awarding city status to Southend - a key focus or Sir David's campaigning.

"What the family rightly says is we need nicer politics," he told Sky. "Let's be tolerant and respect each others' views. Hate needs to be taken out of the agenda. We've got a role to play as politicians but also the media and public out there, let's make this legacy a nicer place for David. A nicer, better politics right across the world."

Asked about previous comments made by Boris Johnson and Angela Rayner, Sir Lindsay said: "That type of language has no place, and it wouldn't be allowed in the chamber. We have to think about the use of language we used. We saw what happened with Capitol Hill when you whip up a mob.

"Let's have our differences, and that's important - I want to chair a chamber that has politicians. But let's have nicer politics, let's have more honest politics as well. Let's have a new beginning today - today is a starting point where we can change the face of politicians."

Police moved the floral tributes overnight and put them all together outside the Belfairs Methodist church where MP Sir David Amess was murdered - Rob Welham / John McLellan
Police moved the floral tributes overnight and put them all together outside the Belfairs Methodist church where MP Sir David Amess was murdered - Rob Welham / John McLellan  

07:32 AM

Rise of 'bedroom radicals' means terror response must adapt, says Dominic Raab

'Bedroom radicals' spending more time online throughout the course of the pandemic and lockdowns are part of "the dark side of what happens online", the Justice Secretary has said.

People who were radicalised online as they spent months at home present a new wave of threats to national security, The Telegraph understands.

"There is certainly an element of more people who are at-risk and vulnerable because they've been spending more time online. I'm absolutely confident that intelligent services and the police are monitoring that with maximum energy and vigour," Dominic Raab told Sky News.

"What you're really seeing is behaviour morphing and changing and obviously we've got to adapt and respond to that."

On the Today programme, Mr Raab added that issues of foreign policy, such as the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan and its fall to Taliban militants, "can create implications for our domestic security at home".

07:25 AM

'It's been particularly vicious online'

The climate of political debate has worsened since 2010 as abuse on social media has become more prevalent, Dominic Raab has said.

"Particularly since 2010 it's [been] particularly vicious online, the amount of abuse we get as politicians," the Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister told the Today programme.

"When you're in a frontline job you'll get more of it, but I've had three threats to life and limb that have required intervention in the last two years. This is not entirely out of the blue because we had Jo Cox before, we had the case of Stephen Timms, but everyone has had this experience of intensifying abuse and that tipping into threats."

Mr Raab also took aim at the often toxic nature of discourse in politics, and said that "for those who are mentally unwell and those at risk of radicalisation - who will jump on a pretext for violence and lower level of intimidation - it does feel like there is that link."

07:19 AM

Jo Cox widower speaks of 'very physical' reaction to Sir David's murder

The widower of Jo Cox has spoken of his reaction to learning of the murder of Sir David Amess on Friday.

"I had a very physical reaction to it," Brendan Cox told BBC Radio 4. "There was just being back in that moment five years ago when I got a phone call about what happened to Jo, and in that moment it was very hard."

Jo Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen, was killed in her constituency in a terrorist attack in 2016 - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Jo Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen, was killed in her constituency in a terrorist attack in 2016 - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images  

It came as Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the Commons, called for more protective measures for MPs when they are away from their constituencies.

"We've got a fortress here [in Parliament] but what we've got to do to make sure we do is make sure that doesn't end when they step out of that gate," Mr Hoyle told Radio 4.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, said in a BBC Breakfast interview that he had received "death threats, terrible letters and awful emails" since he entered Parliament in 2015.

07:10 AM

Man arrested over death threat sent to Chris Bryant

A man has been arrested in connection with a death threat sent to Labour MP Chris Bryant.

A 76-year-old from Pontycymer, Bridgend County, was arrested on suspicion of malicious communications on Saturday after a message sent in response to a call from Mr Bryant to be kinder after the death of Sir David Amess.

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for Rhondda - Heathcliff O
Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for Rhondda - Heathcliff O'Malley  

"The year before it was anti-vaxxers, the year before we had Brexit campaigners plastering the word 'traitor' all over my office," Mr Bryant told Radio Wales Breakfast.

"I hope everyone dials down the nastiness in politics. It's been six years of everyone calling each other traitor. That needs to end, we need to be nicer to each other."

07:04 AM

End of online anonymity will be considered 'very carefully', says Dominic Raab

The Government will look "very carefully" at measures which would outlaw anonymity on social media, Dominic Raab has said.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, yesterday signalled that online trolls could be stripped of their anonymity amid calls for online platforms to do more to tackle abuse on their platforms.

Asked about her comments by Sky News, Mr Raab said: "I think we'll look at that. What we don't want to do is send a message to tyrants all over the world that they can expose those who are campaigning bravely. Equally, we know some of those campaigning are vulnerable or not wanting to be in the public domain.

"On balance there is a case for looking very carefully at this. I don't see why people should be able to abuse their position on social media.

"I know female colleagues of mine right across the parties who have come off Twitter because it's just so vile. That can't be right, it's narrowing debate and responsible public discourse."

06:58 AM

MPs could have private security guards in wake of Sir David Amess murder

Private security guards for MPs could be among changes made after the murder of Sir David Amess on Friday, the Justice Secretary has suggested.

Dominic Raab said further "targeted" action to protect parliamentarians will be taken in the wake of the killing of Conservative backbencher Sir David.

"I think it depends on the individual. I think we're more likely to look at things like private security guards," he told Sky News. "There's already money, I believe, available for that.

"The problem you've got is a lot of people coming to see their MP, it's quite a thing to do, it takes quite a bit of courage, they'll feel vulnerable themselves. So we need to think about a proportionate approach and that will vary from person to person."

But Mr Raab said he "probably wouldn't choose" to have plain-clothed police officers attend to his own constituency surgeries, and expressed concern about a potential "chilling effect" on democracy.

06:56 AM

Good morning

Boris Johnson will lead tributes MPs in paying tribute to Sir David Amess as Parliament returns from recess today.

Here is the front page of today's Daily Telegraph:

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