'People should not be intimidated by those who attack from the safety of their keyboards'
West Berkshire’s council leader says the recent stabbing of MP David Amess should not put people off public life.
Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) says the incident in which the MP was stabbed to death while holding a surgery in Leigh On Sea, Essex, has put a spotlight on politicians' security, adding that it has made her question her own safety.
She said online abuse is the worst, and now reports all abuse or harassment to Thames Valley Police, and the council’s own monitoring officer.
“Thankfully, here in West Berkshire it is not as bad as other places I have heard about,” she said.
“But individuals can be inappropriate. Certainly, things are worse on social media, so I don’t engage with people directly on there as I don’t want to get into that arena as it can become harassment.
“I have removed my address for example from websites, and while the actions of these people undermines democracy, I don’t want it to put people off being in public life.
"People should not be intimidated by those who attack from the safety of their keyboards.”
Face-to-face meetings with constituents, known as surgeries, are stock in trade for local councillors.
West Berkshire Council has 24 wards, and 43 councillors. Each ward is represented by three councillors. They get briefings and advice on personal safety from the Local Government Association.
It advises that councillors should not hold surgeries alone, and if they do to reduce risks by sitting near to the door and to have a plan discussed with helpers as to what to do if any difficulties arise.
It also says to avoid having heavy objects in the room which can be used as weapons.
Many Members of Parliament say there needs to be a review about how they can be safe while meeting constituents after the second killing of a British MP in five years.
In 2016, MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed while on her way to a surgery.