In defence of MP safety: Women lawmakers speak out

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Commons floor is patrolled by armed officers. Ever since I started campaigning for safer schools, I have been told: “You have to be kidding.” Some women in…

In defence of MP safety: Women lawmakers speak out

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Commons floor is patrolled by armed officers.

Ever since I started campaigning for safer schools, I have been told: “You have to be kidding.”

Some women in Westminster – or anyone working in a historically male-dominated environment – could say exactly the same.

But now, after the terrorist attack on March 22, 2017, with the radicalisation of our young, more and more women in politics have reached out to tell me what that feels like to them.

There have been a dozen women who have contacted me as part of this campaign, bringing with them heartfelt stories of how the attack pushed them further into the shadows.

In an e-mail from Zoe Cuthbertson, we learned how the attack left her ‘distressed, but resilient and strong’

Amid the ongoing debate about strengthening the security arrangements around the Palace of Westminster, there is a silent debate that has been taking place in quiet corners of the House of Commons for years.

I have had calls, emails and visits from women from all across the world who have been shaking their heads in disbelief as the Tory MP for Sevenoaks in Kent, and the chair of the Commons Home Affairs committee, Robert Halfon, vowed to reverse the security measures implemented after the Westminster attack and “curtail the appalling training” of counter-terrorism policing.

They say that one of the ways they feel so vulnerable is because male MPs have it easier. If they join the security team, it means having to take 24/7 shifts from their house, with their pet dog, even though some of the security posts are only manned by one or two officers.

Avril, a member of the police command who only had to handle an operational response to a member of the public, but who nevertheless felt she was close to death when she was called to address six MPs in their homes during the Westminster attack, wrote a public letter to the Home Affairs committee and to Mr Halfon after his threat to undermine the security of parliament, saying it created a ‘worrying reality’.

Avril’s letter to the home affairs committee

Another of the MPs who was woken by the bomb a second time was Emily Thornberry, who was also woken up in the House of Commons room.

“I remember standing with a group of women and not knowing if it was the wind or if we were all moving into one room. Thankfully, my quick-thinking colleague said ‘move in a different direction,’ and we all did as she instructed.”

‘Living in fear’

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption London is regarded as one of the safest cities in the world

These MPs are living in terror all the time, but they are going on with it and doing their jobs because they believe in democracy.

All the UK is experiencing at the moment is a tragic moment in history and the politicians have a responsibility to listen to those who want to talk to them.

All those who are opposed to giving the full security to our institutions and allies need to come forward and say why they feel we cannot put ourselves in such a position, and which parts they believe we should target.

If we listen to them and listen to parliament, then we will also listen to the people who elected them and could block legislation the government wants.

Why are women encouraged to risk their lives as MPs, raising children, helping those who have been affected by abuse and bullying, but they are not safe when they work in their own offices in Westminster?

If we change that culture in the House of Commons, then we will change Westminster, and women will be safe.

The Home Affairs committee has been encouraging the views of Parliamentarians. Any personal comments will be considered in this debate.

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