The deputy prime minister has said online hate is “out of control” but a wedge should not be put in between MPs and their constituents after the murder of Sir David Amess.
Dominic Raab called for the vilification of MPs to stop as he paid tribute to the “big-hearted” Sir David, who was stabbed to death at a routine meeting with his constituents on Friday in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
Mr Raab, who is also the justice secretary, told Sky News’ Kay Burley: “The elephant in the room of all this is the amount of online hate that we all get is out of control.
“I know the home secretary has talked about what more she wants to do there, the online bill is going through pre-legislative scrutiny.
“I’m a free speech man, I want to defend that to my dying days but, at the same time, I think the amount of abuse, the vilification directed at MPs, particularly female MPs, has got to stop.”
He added that since he was elected in 2010 he has been “very conscious” the risk to MPs has increased, particularly at a local level.
“We’re all conscious that as we try and make sure we’ve got that connection of trust with our constituents and our communities, which all MPs across the divide want to rally around and cherish and nurture,” he said.
But he said MPs do not want “a wedge” placed in between them and their constituents.
Mr Raab said he personally would not choose to have plain-clothed police officers outside any surgery he was holding, saying it would have a “chilling effect” but said he could understand if other MPs wanted them.
“I think everyone has a real nervousness and concern and the forces are already doing this – local forces need to sit down with them and see what they can do to provide the concrete security but also what will give them reassurance and peace of mind,” he said.
“We’re not going to be much good for our constituents if we’re not confident going into those meetings and we’re all looking over our shoulder with trepidation.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said over the weekend the Prevent counter-radicalisation programme will be reviewed to see if it is “fit for purpose”.
Mr Raab defended the programme as he said he does not think there can ever be a “perfect” counter-extremism programme but admitted it can always be improved.
He said lessons will be learned from both the increase in hate during the pandemic and Sir David’s murder and said Prevent is always being looked at and tweaked to improve it.