17 Oct 2021

‘We have to recognise there could be a copycat-style attack’ – Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood has called for a pause in face-to-face meetings in the wake of the killing of MP Sir David Amess. Mr Ellwood, who is the chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, was asked whether police protection or private security is now the answer to ensuring safe meetings between MPs and constituents. 

Tobias Ellwood (TE): That’s the big question that we are now debating after the sudden loss of our dear colleague…. It’s up to the police and the Home Office to do their reviews, to come back and understand what those threats are, but in the medium medium term, we do need to perhaps take cautions (with our) behaviour and how we actually interact with the public. The key messages that have come across in the last few days is just how critically important that bond is with the British public that we do not want to lose.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy (KGM): It has been striking that since your temporary suggestion of a pause to face-to-face meetings, a lot of your colleagues pushed back and said, well, no, we mustn’t go down that road.

TE: Far be it for me to advise any other colleague or MP as to what they should do, I look at this from the prism of security. That is the angle that I take stock of these things. I was travelling with David Amess in Doha in Qatar only last week, and we were discussing the security implications for terrorism and so forth to the consequences of departing Afghanistan when extremist terrorist groups will be buoyed by the fact that an insurgency has defeated a superpower and the consequences of that on the wider stage. But ultimately, we have to recognise that there could be a copycat style attack. The police have already made that clear. Therefore, yes, absolutely. Let’s stand up to the terrorists. Let’s make sure that our lifestyles and the way we go about business is not altered, that they do not win. But we need to do that in a cognitive way that makes sure that employees, staff and indeed the general public are kept safe.

KGM: Do you think this is putting people off going into politics?

TE: We need to make sure that doesn’t happen, we want good people to want to step into public life, but we need to have those assurances that it will be a safer environment. It’s worth pointing out that there are those on the front line in our world, whether it be a bus driver, a nurse or social worker, that are facing all sorts of challenges every single day. Perhaps the difference here is the fact that this was extremism. This was an individual wanting to take another’s life with a false pretence that they are somehow going to be rewarded by it. That’s the wider threat, the wider challenge that we need to look at. But your premise that unless we deal with this, fewer people will want to step forward, I think is absolutely right.