MP Sir David Amess dies after stabbing: MPs describe the scale of threats they now face

David Amess and Jo Cox. Credit: PA

I’ve been covering politics for over 10 years and one of the most noticeable and chilling changes has been the threats faced by MPs.

David Amess’s tragic death follows that of Jo Cox in 2016 and comes alongside very real threats to other’s lives, including Rosie Cooper and Stephen Timms. 

But the truth is this story of abuse and threat goes much wider than that.

One MP just described it as an “epidemic” - describing how during a recent chat with colleagues in Parliament, several spoke of people charged or even imprisoned because of threats made to their lives. 

What have MPs said about Amess?

“Ask the question,” he said “how many people are currently in prison because of genuine death threats against MPs?” 

The actual attacks, of course, date back over many years. But if I think back to covering the 2010 election, which was of course fiercely fought, I don’t remember MPs telling me about an atmosphere that we see constantly now. 

I think it probably pre-dates Brexit to some extent, although certainly things became more toxic after 2016, and with the amplification of abuse on social media. 

I remember first coming across death threats aimed at Labour MP Diane Abbott - things that were so disgusting I couldn’t repeat them here.

Sir David Amess died on Friday after being stabbed while attending a surgery. Credit: Parliament

And then Conservative MPs began to tell me about the constant abuse they faced - not just a stream of attacks on Twitter but threats daubed on their constituency offices. 

One said that a threat against them was linked back to an individual who had things at home that suggested he clearly planned to actually do something. 

The police help - advising MPs on how to secure their homes, and minimise threats in public events.

But ultimately our system of politics is one in which constituency MPs must be available to their constituents.

That they face a threat on their lives for doing that job is beyond belief.