A cross-party group of 50 MPs has written to Scotland Yard asking for greater protection after a politician was branded a “Nazi” by Brexit protesters outside Parliament in the latest wave of abuse.
Police are investigating whether any criminal offence was committed when Conservative MP Anna Soubry was verbally attacked while doing live interviews on College Green on Monday.
During a discussion on the BBC, people off-camera could be heard shouting “Soubry is a Nazi”.
She told interviewer Simon McCoy: “I do object to being called a Nazi, actually.
“I just think this is astonishing, this is what has happened to our country. But let’s try and move on and be positive about things.”
Protesters also chanted slogans including “Liar, liar” throughout a live interview with Soubry on Sky News.
In the aftermath, MPs have written to Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to complain about the spate of incidents in Westminster in recent weeks.
The MPs said: “After months of peaceful and calm protests by groups representing a range of political views on Brexit, an ugly element of individuals with strong far right and extreme right connections, which your officers are well aware of, have increasingly engaged in intimidatory and potentially criminal acts targeting Members of Parliament, journalists, activists and members of the public.
“We understand there are ongoing investigations but there appears to be an ongoing lack of coordination in the response from the police and appropriate authorities including with Westminster borough policing, and despite clear assurances this would be dealt with following incidents before Christmas, there have been a number of further serious and well publicised incidents today.”
The letter adds: “The ability to peacefully protest and express views outside Parliament is a cherished part of our democracy – and we want to retain the right for those who have conducted themselves within the law and a peaceful way to continue to do so.
“It is however utterly unacceptable for Members of Parliament, journalists, activists and members of the public to be subject to abuse, intimidation and threatening behaviour and indeed potentially serious offences while they go about their work.
“Many of these concerns have been repeatedly raised both with officers on the ground, and at senior levels with over the past weeks since the situation worsened, as well as with the parliamentary authorities and ministers and so it is obviously concerning to have to write to you formally in this regard.”
The protesters were criticised by high-profile Brexit supporters, including presenter Piers Morgan, and other MPs.
Writing on Twitter, MP Douglas Carswell said: “Small crowd shouting oafish chants at TV crew outside Parliament.
“I’m not a great fan of the mainstream broadcasters, but such boorishness is out of line. Do they realise how much damage they do?”
Earlier on Monday, political commentator Owen Jones shared a video on Twitter which showed him being accosted by a group outside Parliament, including men wearing Union flags.
They could be heard calling him a “traitor” and a “horrible little man” and accusing the Labour activist of writing “fake news”.
Soubry, the pro-EU MP for Broxtowe, said the behaviour of protesters was “seriously worrying”, adding: “I’m afraid the truth is that Brexit has unleashed these people. This is Britain now. This is not the country I know and love and these people do not represent our country and they need sorting out.”
Labour MP Stephen Doughty raised the issue in the Commons during a Brexit question session and called on Speaker John Bercow to intervene.
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said he had not seen the incidents but noted MPs were “always mindful” of the plaque to murdered MP Jo Cox which is “so dear to many… across the House”.
“I think all of us would unite on that wherever people are on the Brexit debate… all of us in this House should be able to air their views with respect,” he said.
Bercow said he was “keeping a close eye on events” as he voiced concerns over incidents involving “aggressive and threatening behaviour” towards MPs.
The Speaker also told the Commons he was “concerned” about “what seems to be a pattern of protest” targeted in particular at women, adding that female MPs and female journalists had been subjected to “aggressive protest and what many would regard as harassment”.
Theresa May’s official spokesman said he had not discussed the incident involving Soubry with the Prime Minister, but added: “The Prime Minister has been very clear that nobody involved in the political process should be subjected to abuse or harassment.
“They should be free to do their job without any form of intimidation and it is clearly unacceptable when that isn’t the case.”
Asked whether MPs should be offered greater protection while the “meaningful vote” on Brexit is debated over the next few days, the PM’s spokesman said: “There are existing laws in relation to public order, harassment and making threats.
“Where laws are already in place, it’s important that they are respected.”
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “Police received a third-party report of a public order offence on Monday, 7 January, in the area of College Green, SW1.
“Officers are assessing if any crimes have been committed. There has been no arrest at this stage.”