Patel suggests scrapping anonymity online amid ‘relentless’ abuse of MPs

The Home Secretary hits out at the “coarsening” of public debate as the UK is left reeling by the brutal killing of MP Sir David Amess

Home Secretary Priti Patel suggests scrapping anonymous accounts on social media

Home Secretary Priti Patel has suggested anonymous social media accounts could be banned amid the “relentless” and “cruel” abuse of MPs online.

Sir David Amess was stabbed to death on Friday in a shocking attack at a constituency surgery at a church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Friday.

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, has been arrested on suspicion of murder and terrorist cops are leading the investigation.

Ms Patel has asked police forces to review security for MPs. Sir David is the second MP to be killed in recent years after Jo Cox was killed in 2016.

Speaking to Sky News in the wake of the about the wider “coarsening” of public debate, Ms Patel suggested ministers could crackdown on anonymous social media accounts.

She told Trevor Phillips: “I want us to look at everything.

“There is work taking place already. We have an Online Harms Bill that will come to Parliament, there is working taking place on it right now.

“I’ve done a lot of work on social media platforms, mainly around encryption and areas of that nature.

Sir David Amess MP was killed on Friday in a brutal attack in his constituency

“But we can’t carry on like this. I spend too much time with communities who have been under attack, basically who have had all sorts of postings online and it is a struggle to get those posts taken down.

“We want to make some big changes on that.”

Asked whether political debate had deteriorated, she added: “I think first of all parliament in the House of Commons has always been the home for robust debate, and that’s how we articulate robust debate views etc etc.

“You’ve asked about the coarsening of discourse in Parliament. I would, I personally and I can only speak from a personal perspective. I always strive to ensure that I respect colleagues, even when I disagree on a political point or point a policy that may be levelled against myself.

“But there are some clear guidance as well. The Speaker speaks very strongly about debate, tone, how we articulate ourselves present ourselves in Parliament, and I know that every colleague strives to stick with that and conduct themselves in a, in a decent way.

“And it’s decency that matters and respect matters.”

But she went on: “This isn’t just about the House of Commons, this is about wider public discourse and I would also go as far to say social media, anonymity on social media, where we’re members of parliament are subjects of some of the most cruel comments attacks.

“And they are relentless, many of them are relentless.

Labour’s Lisa Nandy


Adam Gerrard/Daily Mirror)

“My colleagues go through just some of the most appalling attacks I’ve seen online and I have as well.”

Labour’s Lisa Nandy suggested her party would back “limits” on social media anonymity, but raised concerns that individuals such as whistleblowers may need protection.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary said anyone who makes criminal threats online should face charges.

She also accused the government of “dragging its feet” on social media reform, adding Labour backed executives being fined for failing to remove hateful content from platforms.

Sir David, 69, who had been an MP since 1983, was meeting constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on Friday afternoon when he was stabbed multiple times in a frenzied attack.

The MP spoke to PR professional Richard Hillgrove to discuss the Children’s Parliament, an event where youngsters are matched with MPs, soon before the attack, the Sunday Times reported.

The newspaper reported Mr Hillgrove ended the Zoom call at 12.02pm, three minutes before the married father-of-five was stabbed.

Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer and Priti Patel pay respects to Sir David Amess. Belfairs Methodist Church. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson accompanied by the Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer, the Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle pay their respects to the Conservative MP Sir David Amess


Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street)

Ms Patel said there were “immediate” security changes being offered to MPs.

“In terms of your immediate point around safety and security of individuals, there is a lot of work that has taken place already,” the Cabinet minister said.

“There is more work under way on Friday, yesterday, today and going forward with policing in constituencies but also with the parliamentary authorities around security of MPs.

“That is absolutely geared up, and I should emphasise this, around looking at this weekend, Members of Parliament are in their constituencies, next weekend they will be doing the same, out and about, and alongside that what are the protective measures we can put in immediately?

“This isn’t a case of, ‘let’s wait for two, three, four weeks’. These are immediate changes and measures that are actively being put in place and discussed with MPs.”

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has said he was “working closely and at pace with the Home Office and the police” to identify ways to improve MPs’ safety.

Labour will not be standing a candidate in the Southend West by-election.

The party is set to follow the principle established after Mrs Cox’s murder, when the major parties declined to select candidates for the by-election.

The Liberal Democrats have also confirmed they will not fight for the Southend West seat when a polling date is set.

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