Police to step up Westminster security ahead of Brexit deal vote after MPs harassed by mob

The Met is to step up security at Westminster ahead of next week's Brexit deal vote. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
The Met is to step up security at Westminster ahead of next week's Brexit deal vote. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
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Police are to step up their operation around Parliament in the run up to next week’s Brexit deal vote after MPs were subjected to intimidation and harassment just yards from the House of Commons.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said Scotland Yard would be “enhancing the policing presence” after MP Anna Soubry was branded a Nazi by a mob during television interviews and then followed to the Palace of Westminster.

The Commons Speaker demanded police tackle the “aggressive, threatening and intimidating behaviour” towards politicians and journalists outside Parliament.

In his letter to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick John Bercow hit out at “toxic attacks” and called for officers to intervene when protesters overstepped the boundaries of peaceful protest.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said yesterday that the Cabinet had agreed that the abuse Ms Soubry suffered was “disgraceful and unacceptable”.

Mr Taylor said that police officers on duty outside Parliament had been given clear directions “that if they witness criminal behaviour then there is an expectation that an arrest will be made”.

He added: “We’ve reviewed our policing plan on the back of incidents yesterday. You will see a visible policing presence [near Parliament]. We’ve had a policing presence there for a number of months with ongoing protest.

“We recognise the challenges there at the moment and certainly leading up to the vote next week we will be enhancing the policing presence and we will ensure that we have appropriate measures in place to attempt as far as possible to reassure people that they can go about their lives without fear of harassment or alarm.”

The force is assessing whether any crime was committed by the protesters who hurled abuse at Ms Soubry and campaigners Owen Jones and Femi Oluwole on Monday.

Protesters could be heard chanting “Soubry is a Nazi” as she appeared on BBC News from College Green, across the road from Parliament.

Protesters also chanted slogans including “Liar, liar” throughout a live interview she did with Sky News.

Earlier on Monday, political commentator Owen Jones shared a video on Twitter which showed him being accosted by a group outside Parliament, including men wearing Union flags.

They could be heard calling him a “traitor” and a “horrible little man” and accusing the Labour activist of writing “fake news”.

The incidents prompted a wave of criticism from politicians and commentators from across the political spectrum.

At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting in Downing Street, ministers condemned the harassment suffered by Ms Soubry.

Theresa May told colleagues that “this is not how debate should be conducted in our country”, said the PM’s official spokesman.

Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay faced criticism after linking the abuse faced by Ms Soubry to the campaign for a second Brexit referendum.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today about the prospect of a new vote he said: “That would be hugely damaging to democracy, to our politics.

“We saw in the appalling scenes outside Parliament in the way that my colleague Anna Soubry was disgracefully treated yesterday how divisive this process has been.”

Labour’s Chuka Umunna branded Mr Barclay’s comments as “disgraceful”, adding: “The notion we should be intimidated into NOT holding democratic votes is deplorable.”