Sir David Amess stabbing latest in a series of attacks on MPs

Are MPs in more danger now than they have been before? Libby Wiener reports

Conservative MP Sir David Amess has died after being stabbed several times while holding a constituency surgery in Leigh, Essex police have confirmed.

His death is the latest attack on an MP in their constituency, with the incident raising further concerns around the safety of politicians who routinely hold surgeries which anyone can attend.

In 2016, Jo Cox became the first MP to be murdered in office since 1990 after she was stabbed and shot dead by a far-right terrorist shortly before holding a surgery.

The Labour MP, 41, was a staunch Remain supporter when she was murdered just days before the Brexit referendum.

Jo Cox Credit: Twitter

Following her death, it was announced that all MPs were to be automatically offered additional security in their constituency offices and homes - such as panic buttons, extra lighting, additional locks and emergency fobs - and would not have to apply to have them installed.

Before this, MPs seeking enhanced security had to have to a risk assessment carried out by the police.

Just months before this in January 2016, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority - the parliamentary expenses watchdog - announced MPs were to get an "enhanced" security package following protests outside MPs' constituency offices over the House of Commons vote on bombing Syria.

There were 678 crimes against MPs reported between 2016 and 2020, police data shows.

Flowers near the Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, where Sir David Amess was holding a surgery. Credit: PA

The Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team, set up by the Metropolitan Police in 2016 following the death of Jo Cox, received 582 reports of malicious communications and handled 46 cases of harassment.

A total of nine cases were classified as relating to terrorism.

There were also seven reports of MPs receiving threats, and three cases of common assault over the period.

Separate police figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show a sharp rise in reports since 2018, with 34 incidents in December 2018 and 128 incidents in January 2019.

There were three threats to kill in the four months for which figures were provided.

In 2019, the Met said that crimes against MPs increased by 126% between 2017 and 2018, with a 90% rise in the first four months of 2019.

In May 2010, East Ham MP Stephen Timms was stabbed twice in the abdomen by Roshonara Choudhry, an Islamic extremist who claimed she had wanted “to get revenge for the people of Iraq”. Mr Timms, who remains an MP, suffered serious injuries and according to police was “extremely fortunate not to have been killed”.

Choudhry - a then 21-year-old student - was jailed for 15 years after being found guilty of attempted murder and two counts of possessing a knife.

Stephen Timms speaks to the media as he leaves the Royal London Hospital after recovering being stabbed. Credit: PA

She had stabbed the MP as she approached him pretending to shake his hand.

Nigel Jones, then MP for Cheltenham, was severely injured in January 2000 when he was attacked in his offices by a man wielding a sword. Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councillor, was killed in the same attack while trying to defend the then-MP. The attacker, Robert Ashman, had been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was considered unfit to stand trial so was ordered to be detained indefinitely in a secure hospital.

In 1990, in the latest of a series of attacks by the IRA, Ian Gow, the then Eastbourne MP, was killed by an IRA car bomb at his Sussex home aged 53.

Before him, the MP for Enfield Southgate Sir Anthony Berry died in the IRA bombing of Brighton’s Grand Hotel, where Margaret Thatcher was staying for the 1984 Conservative Party conference.

Margaret Thatcher had left the bathroom in her first floor suite moments before the blast at the Brighton hotel. Credit: PA

The IRA also claimed the life of Ulster Unionist Party MP Robert Bradford, who was shot dead aged 40 while holding a constituency surgery in a Belfast community centre in 1981. And the Irish National Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the murder of former Northern Ireland secretary Airey Neave, whose car was blown up as he drove out of the parliamentary car park at Westminster in 1979.