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Sunak warns country descending into mob rule and demands police get tough on protests

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Rishi Sunak has claimed the UK is descending into “mob rule” as he warned police to take urgent action or risk losing public confidence.

The prime minister demanded a crackdown on protests as he pledged to do “whatever it requires to protect our democracy”.

He told police chiefs at a roundtable in Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon they had to demonstrate they would “use the powers you already have” saying it was “vital for maintaining public confidence in the police.”

In a startling assessment of the state of modern Britain, he said: “There is a growing consensus that mob rule is replacing democratic rule. And we’ve got to collectively, all of us, change that urgently….”

He said that he would “do whatever it requires to protect our democracy and our values that we all hold dear”.

He said a new ‘democratic policing protocol’, which commits forces to additional patrols and “provides clarity that protests at elected representatives’ homes should be treated as intimidatory”, would protect democratic rule.

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It also sets out that protests at democratic venues like Parliament or political events should not be allowed to “cause alarm, harassment or distress” to attendees.

Forces will provide additional patrols in communities at risk of “potential flashpoints”.

Earlier he rejected calls for fearful MPs to work from home as he sought to defend security measures which critics said failed to tackle the root cause of attacks on politicians.

No 10 said the prime minister believed the idea was “appalling” and “we shouldn’t be closing down parliament” because of extremists.

Tensions have been heightened by protests over the war in Gaza, as MPs come under intense pressure to back calls for a ceasefire.

Mr Sunak has previously condemned an ‘aggressive mob’ of pro-Gaza protesters at Tory MP Tobias Ellwood’s home.

There waere also angry and chaotic scenes at Westminster last week, after the Commons speakerSir Lindsay Hoyle was accused of ripping up the parliamentary rule book over a vote on a ceasefire in Gaza, because of concerns about “threats” against MPs.

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But the government is facing a backlash from one of its own ministers who said a new £31m security package for MPs was “missing the point”.

Justice minister Mike Freer, who has started to wear a stab vest to public events and will stand down at the next election because of threats to his safety, said the measures would “not actually [go] to the root cause” of why people felt emboldened to target MPs.

He also warned a “ring of steel” around politicians would fundamentally alter democracy.

It came as:

  • Sir Keir Starmer accused the Conservatives of indulging in conspiracy theories and said they had become the ‘political wing of the flat-earth society’
  • The Labour leader also called on Mr Sunak to block Liz Truss from standing at general election after she “remained silent as right-wing thug Tommy Robinson was described as a hero”
  • Pro-Palestinian protesters vow to continue marches, despite government calls for a halt

The new funding, announced by home secretary James Cleverly, follows “frightening” threats to MPs and their families.

Under the plans, MPs will be given greater police protection, while those at higher risk could have private security guards. The level of protection will be decided by the police, and could apply to controversial figures like George Galloway, if he is elected in this week’s Rochdale by-election.

All elected representatives and candidates will also have a dedicated named police contact to liaise with on security matters.

But Mr Freer, who represents a heavily Jewish constituency in Finchley and Golders Green in north London, said the extra funding did not address the underlying problem.

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“I kind of think it’s missing the point,” he told Times Radio. “More security is always welcome, but that’s only dealing with the symptom.

“It’s not actually going to the root cause. Why do people now feel emboldened to attack members of parliament, to demonstrate outside their homes where they’re intimidating their family? Not necessarily the MP, but their family.

“Why should their partners and their children have to put up with being frightened in their own home?

“So, security is welcome. But frankly, unless you get to the root cause, then you’re just going to have a ring of steel around MPs. And our whole style of democracy changes.”

Mike Freer, who has claimed to have received a series of death threats as well as an arson attack at his office

(PA)

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the government “rightly needs to ensure that democracy is protected and that no one faces security threats either for themselves or their family because of the job they do or their democratic role.”

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Just hours after the new measures were unveiled, Just Stop Oil, which has defended protests at MPs homes, tweeted Sir Keir “we’ll be with you in a few hours. Put the kettle on for us.”

Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian protesters vowed to continue marches despite calls for a halt. Mr Cleverly told marchers they had made their “point”. But Chris Nineham, vice chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, accused ministers of creating a “social panic” around pro-Palestinian protests. Fears over the safety of MPs have hit the headlines in recent weeks.

Conservative backbencher Tobias Ellwood’s home was targeted earlier this month by pro-Palestine protesters.

On Wednesday, policing minister Chris Philp said four people had been arrested after a political party fundraising event in Stoke was disrupted by protesters last week.

Two serving MPs, Labour’s Jo Cox and Conservative Sir David Amess, have been murdered by extremists in the past eight years.

Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle welcomed the new funding, saying it was “a significant step forward” that provided “much-needed reassurance for everyone involved in the democratic process”.

He said: “It will enable us to build on the improvements we have made over the past two years, working with the police and Home Office to enhance security at MPs’ homes and offices, and crucially when they are out and about meeting their constituents.”

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On Tuesday, Mr Sunak rejected a suggestion from veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman that MPs should be able to speak and vote from their constituencies because of concerns about security at Westminster.

Source: Independent

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