Politicians need more protection, the chances of someone doing something stupid are too high
By Joe Harker
Harassment of MPs has caused the police to review their methods of dealing with protesters that abuse politicians and journalists. Tory MP Anna Soubry was bombarded with shouts of "Nazi" during two live broadcasts and the police were criticised for not intervening. Journalist Owen Jones was harassed by a group of "yellow jacket" protesters outside the Houses of Parliament.
Later, 115 MPs told the police to "deal robustly" with criminal harassment as they expressed "serious concern" over their personal security. Police had been present at the incidents of harassment but did not intervene, prompting concern from politicians that the "deteriorating public order" was putting them in danger.
Outnumbered and harassed, politicians and journalists need the police to intervene if they want to stop letting the abusers grow bolder. One incident filmed had the yellow jackets, who take inspiration from the gilets jaunes in France, threatening "war" with police officers and singling one officer out as "not even fucking British".
Harassment could all too easily turn into violence if a precedent is not set and people are allowed to continue hurling abuse. Scotland Yard was accused of adopting a "wishy washy" approach to the yellow jackets after their officers failed to take action against protesters.
The abuse directed at the likes of Anna Soubry and Owen Jones are not the first instances of such harassment and many believe arrests should have been made. Lord Paddick, Liberal Democrat peer and former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said the protesters actions breached the Public Order Act which should have given officers clear grounds to arrest them.
The abuse directed at politicians like Soubry is a dire reflection of the state of British politics. For harassment to become common outside the Houses of Parliament, for politicians to be harangued with chants of "Nazi" is unacceptable. The more it continues the bolder the yellow jackets will get, the possibility of harassment turning to violence is despicable but depressingly possible. These people with their Blackshirts tribute act need to know the police will step in and intervene. Intimidation and harassment cannot become a mainstay of politics.
Those hurling abuse at politicians and journalists are often filmed doing so, whether by the individual they are abusing or by their own people for the purposes of gaining attention on social media. These videos are often shared on Facebook with a link to a Pay Pal account where supporters could give the abusers money to continue harassing politicians and journalists. These sites have now said they will delete accounts that gain attention through abuse and hate speech, cutting off a revenue stream for the abusers.
It's a tried and tested business model for those who want attention and money. People stage protests and hurl abuse, sharing their videos to get attention on social media. They then ask viewers and supporters to donate money so they can continue to stage protests and hurl abuse. This was a business model used by Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, until he recently had his Pay Pal account deleted.
Politicians and journalists need to be protected, the police need to step in and make arrests when the law is broken. The alternative is emboldening harassment, abuse and intimidation. That is no alternative at all.