POLITICAL protests are part of democracy but there is no place for abuse in the field of debate.
That is the message from MPs in our area who have backed a cross-party letter calling for police action after a Conservative politician was branded a ‘Nazi’ outside Parliament.
The slur was one of many faced by MP for Broxtowe Anna Soubry in a torrent of harassment from protesters as she spoke to journalists on Monday.
Ms Soubry, who supports a second referendum on Brexit, was also called a ‘liar’ and ‘scum’ in what prime minister Theresa May’s spokesman called ‘disgraceful treatment’.
More than 50 MPs have signed the letter to Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick urging her force to improve its response to abusive protesters outside Parliament.
Among them are Labour MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan and Havant Conservative Alan Mak.
Mr Morgan said it is ‘absolutely right’ police take ‘appropriate and proportionate’ steps to crack down on harassment in the future.
‘Abuse both physical and verbal does not reflect the values we hold dear in Britain,’ he said.
‘I am shocked by recent incidents affecting my parliamentary colleagues which are completely and utterly unacceptable – so too are letters and emails using bullying or discriminatory language to intimidate others with different opinions.
‘Let me be clear to those who do this to my MP colleagues and myself; you lose the argument in doing so and this behaviour has no place in our democracy.’
Mr Mak said: ‘I’ve signed the cross-party letter because I believe MPs of all parties, civil servants, journalists and others based in and around Parliament should be able to express themselves and go to work free from abuse, intimidation and threatening behaviour. Peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our democracy, but with those rights come a responsibility to behave legally and with civility.’
While she has not signed the letter calling for police action, Conservative MP for Gosport Caroline Dinenage said police need to keep a ‘close eye’ after what she called a ‘legitimate’ protest ‘segued into something more thuggish and threatening’.
Fareham MP Suella Braverman has also spoken out about the behaviour – despite having different political beliefs to her colleague.
She said: ‘I condemn the verbal abuse that was directed at my colleague Anna Soubry outside Parliament this week. Of course it is important that people have the right to protest, express their views and challenge MPs on their beliefs and positions, but it should be done in a respectful manner without abusive language or intimidation. I disagree with Anna fundamentally on Brexit, but it isn't right that she or any other MP should face this level of intimidation.’
Met Police said they were investigating whether an offence was committed and said there would be an ‘enhanced’ police presence around Parliament in the run-up to next week’s vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.