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Attack on an MP is deemed ‘likely’ after threat level raised to ‘substantial’

·3-min read

A fresh attack on an MP in the wake of the murder of Sir David Amess is now deemed likely after intelligence officers upgraded the threat level for politicians to “substantial”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel urged colleagues on Wednesday to take the “change in risk seriously” following a review by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre linked to MI5.

She told the Commons that there was no “specific or imminent threat” but it was understood MPs will now be contacted over how their security arrangements may be altered.

Sir David Amess death
A candle and a photo at a vigil for Conservative MP Sir David Amess (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Ms Patel said counter-terror police will ensure the “change is properly reflected in the operational posture” following the killing of the MP for Southend West was killed on Friday at a surgery for his constituents.

The murder of the second MP in five years – after Jo Cox was killed in a similar situation – has sparked concern over the safety of British politicians.

Ms Patel said: “While we do not see any information or intelligence which points to any credible or specific or imminent threat, I must update the House that the threat level facing Members of Parliament is now deemed to be substantial.

“This is the same level as the current national threat to the United Kingdom as a whole, so I can assure the House that our world-class intelligence and security agencies and counter-terror police will now ensure that this change is properly reflected in the operational posture.”

While Ms Patel did not specifically state what the increase to substantial means, the PA news agency understands it corresponds with the national guidance, meaning “an attack is likely”.

It was not clear what the previous threat level was, but there are only two lower levels: low and moderate.

Sir David Amess death
Flowers and tributes at the scene near Belfairs Methodist Church (Aaron Chown/PA)

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, was arrested at the scene in Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on suspicion of Sir David’s murder and remains in police custody.

He has been detained under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and detectives are expected to continue to question him until Friday after a warrant of further detention was granted.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said it would be working with police and parliamentary authorities to review security for MPs following the upgrade to the threat level.

An NPCC spokesman said that Operation Bridger, the security programme set up after Ms Cox’s murder by a right-wing extremist in 2016, had contacted every MP since Sir David’s killing.

“Many members of Parliament have taken this immediate opportunity to reassess the bespoke security arrangements they have in place, and forces are working with them and their staff to implement any changes,” he added.

“We continue to strongly encourage MPs to immediately report any security concerns to their local police force in order to keep themselves, their staff and members of the public attending constituency events safe.”

Sir David Amess death
Jo Cox (Jo Cox Foundation)

Ms Patel said that the security of other elected representatives, such as councillors, will also be reviewed.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds asked her to set out if there was updated guidance for MPs and their staff for their safety.

“I know that in the face of such unspeakable hatred we stand united and unshakeable in this House, that those who use violence in an attempt to divide us shall never win and we refuse to be intimated by these dark forces. And yes, that goes for the vile individual or individuals who erected a noose in Parliament Square today,” the Labour MP added.

Earlier in the day, police said a man was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence after a mock gallows was erected by a group protesting against Covid-19 vaccines.

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