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‘Could have been any of us’ – MP in shock after David Amess murder

Protecting MPs from being attacked is almost impossible without dramatically altering the open democracy Britain prides itself on, a Black Country MP has said.

Pat McFadden said the shocking killing of Sir David Amess made all MPs stop in their tracks and believes any one of them could have been the target.

The death of the Conservative MP has put the safety of lawmakers back into the spotlight and came five years after the death of Labour’s Jo Cox.

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Mr McFadden, MP for Wolverhampton South East since 2005 who is also Labour’s Shadow City Minister, said he moved from an ‘open door’ policy for constituency surgeries to appointment bookings partly in response to the murder of his colleague Mrs Cox. But he insisted there was no way to ensure MPs are protected at all times while they remain accessible to the public, something he insists is the bedrock of British democracy.

He said: “On Friday I was at a primary school. Then I went to a visit at a local business in Bilston celebrating its 10th birthday. It was a typical Friday. All these events are what you do as an MP.

Sir David Amess

“They all involve being out with the public and people you don’t know. We do it because we have got to be in touch with the community – it is part of the job.

“There will be a review now by Parliamentary authorities and the police. We would all be very reluctant to withdraw more from contact with the public. That’s the nature of our job.

“One of the ironies of politics is MPs are always accused of being out of touch but the truth is MPs are more in touch with communities than they have ever been in history.”

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Mr McFadden said he had never felt under threat in his 16 years as an MP but believes the nature of Friday’s attack, which is being treated as terrorism, means it could have happened to any of them.

He said: “Every MP will have thought that. When we were getting news of this I was having lunch in a supermarket cafe – a public place.

“We went to the next event and by the time it finished it came through he had died. Of course it makes you stop and think. I got messages from family and friends who were in shock because it’s such a terrible thing.

“It was the second time this had happened to an MP in five years.”

The Labour MP said there would be a discussion about the security of MPs in light of the attack on Sir David but feels it is very difficult to stop this from happening again.

Venandah Madanhi with Pat McFadden, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East
Meeting the public and attending events is ‘part of the job’, says Pat McFadden

He said: “There will be a lot of debate about that. Somebody said if all MPs went to appointment surgeries that would be okay but a violently motivated person can make an appointment. It is not a fool-proof answer. You have got 650 people who go to every corner of the UK every week.”

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Social media has also made MPs more accessible than ever before. And at a time when politics is polarised and shouting and abuse often drowns out healthy debate there are fears it could increase the threat of violence towards Parliamentarians.

Wolverhampton South West MP Stuart Anderson and his family received death threats last year, while his office in Chapel Ash was vandalised. Other MPs have also received regular abuse.

Mr McFadden said: “There are two sides to the social media coin. The plus side is the communication with constituents is much more instant than in the past. I can take pictures at an event and have them on Facebook on the same day.

“The negative side is it can be a platform, at the mild end, for abuse and hostility and, at the real serious end, threats and intimidation.

“Speaking personally, I have not experienced much of that – there was a bit of hostility around the Brexit debate.

“I used to do traditional open door surgeries and book a room in a library or church hall. I did that for years but after Jo Cox partly, I don’t now.”

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