Most politicians are both worried about physical attacks and resistant to measures building walls between them and constituents, writes Kevin Maguire
Back in the day I was repeatedly told in Westminster that Roy Mason, a Northern Ireland Secretary in the 1970s, would later make inflammatory comments attacking the IRA whenever security reviews threatened to remove his car, driver and armed protection.
The story went the former coal miner liked a permanent taxi service and the status bestowed by a Special Branch gunman sitting nearby when he popped into working men’s clubs for a pint.
I’ve no idea if the tale’s true and the late Labour MP, subsequently Baron Mason of Barnsley, is no longer on the end of a telephone to check.
What I do know as fact from countless conversations over the years with the current crop of politicians is most are both worried about physical attacks and resistant to measures building walls between them and constituents.
Resolving this dilemma, safeguarding MPs while maintaining access to defend democracy, is a potentially unanswerable question demanding an urgent response after the fatal stabbing of Southend West Conservative MP Sir David Amess.
Police hold a suspect, Ali Harb Ali, a Briton of Somali heritage, under the Terrorism Act.
Nobody in Westminster I spoke to over the weekend produced a ready response as the Commons Speaker and Home Secretary seek solutions.
Yet the courage and defiance is inspiring when Sir David is the second MP murdered in five years after Labour’s Jo Cox in 2016 (killed by a Far Right terrorist during the Brexit conflagration) and the sixth since 1945.
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My heart goes out to Sir David’s widow, Julia, and their five children. I knew him enough to stop and chat.
He was approachable and polite but I agreed on almost nothing with an austerity-backing, Brexit-championing, anti-gay rights social conservative who was against women controlling their bodies.
I also viewed him as a comic character, Amess a chicken runner who forever hailed Basildon as marvellous until he quit that Essex seat for safer Southend where he sang the same tune to demand city status for his fresh love.
He was no saint but he is now a martyr, and resistance to political violence either unites us from Left to Right or democracy itself is the next victim.