UK Reevaluates Politician Security After Stabbing Attack
An attacker stabbed UK Member of Parliament Sir David Amess to death on 15 October during a meeting with constituents at a Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea, a town south of London. When the Conservative MP entered the church to meet more of his constituents, an attacker—identified by British media as Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old British man of Somali heritage—allegedly broke out of the crowd to stab the lawmaker multiple times. Amess later died from his injuries.
The police formally declared the attack a terrorist episode, with a potential link to Islamist extremism, but investigations remain underway. The suspected attacker’s motives remain unclear. The Metropolitan Police were granted a warrant under the Terrorism Act to keep Ali in detention for six extra days while they continue to question him and search through multiple residences and related addresses, the New York Times reported.
The police searched for answers on Sunday about what might have motivated a 25-year-old British man of Somali heritage, the suspect in the brutal slaying of a Conservative Party lawmaker during a meeting with his constituents. https://t.co/LnH1D8lBaT— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 17, 2021
The ease of access to Amess and the suddenness of the attack sparked memories of the 2016 killing of Member of Parliament (MP) Jo Cox, leading lawmakers to suggest changes to parliamentarian protection, including appointment-only meetings with constituents or increased security.
“Britain’s Houses of Parliament are secured with armed police patrols, video surveillance and airport-style security scanners for all visitors,” according to The Washington Post. “Items such as scissors and screwdrivers are restricted. But such comprehensive protection usually does not extend to lawmakers meeting with voters in public.”
Sir David Amess killing: Security for politicians is a global dilemma https://t.co/ifamsScXGF— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) October 16, 2021
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown argued against reducing politicians’ accessibility and face-to-face contact with constituents, telling Sky News that “This is an attack on democracy, so the answer cannot be less democracy.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the UK government would review lawmaker security policies, specifically as they relate to constituent meetings. Patel also said that the government would consider tightening social media laws to cut down on abusive material—including removing the right to post material anonymously, the Times reported.