POLITICS
07/02/2018 17:44 GMT | Updated 08/02/2018 08:30 GMT

Jacob Rees-Mogg Claims University Scuffle Was 'Not As Dramatic As It Looked'

'I am more concerned about online abuse of female MPs.'

Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs a scuffle he became embroiled in at a university was ‘not as dramatic as it looked’.

The high-profile Brexiteer said he was more concerned about the persistent online abuse of female MPs than “a small protest”.

Rees-Mogg was addressing the University of West England’s (UWE) politics and international relations society in Bristol on Friday when a group of masked protesters burst into the room, sparking an altercation.

The Somerset MP told the Commons and Lords joint human rights committee he had deliberately stood in between the demonstrators and some audience members to avoid anyone being hit, but that the incident was resolved quickly.

“I think it’s important not to get this out of proportion,” he said. 

“The television pictures made it look much more dramatic than it was.

“I stood between two people I thought were going to hit each other...I stood in between them because I knew they were not going to hit me.”

He said the group - none of which are believed to be students - did not want him to be heard, but refused his offer of a discussion.

“That was the point of their protest, and I think as a protest that’s perfectly legitimate.  Not everyone is going to want to sit there quietly and listen to my view of the world.”

Rees-Mogg said politicians often face heckling and protests as “a part of life”.

He added: “The only thing I think was a bit odd is that they turned up wearing masks, and I think that is the one bit that ought not to have happened.

“But I am much more concerned about the online abuse and threats that female MPs get on a regular basis. 

“Male MPs, even ones like me who are quite controversial, just do not seem to get that, and I think that is much more off-putting than a small protest.

“They face much, much worse than what I did on Friday night.  I think there are much more serious things that are under-reported.”

A representative from UWE’s Student Union said security had been put in place in advance of the event, but “no student came up told us we should not be inviting [Rees-Mogg]”.

The Tory grassroots favourite said he felt it would be “a great shame” if backbench MPs had to start going along to events with security in tow.

“Politcians do not have to go and speak at universities, even though I regard it as a very good thing,” he said. 

“We could just go home on Thursday and Friday nights. And that can sometimes be quite tempting.

“Part of the strength of our political system is that MPs are part of the normal population.  We are just there. 

“It would be really sad if MPs felt that [security] was necessary, because how would we know what is going on in the country if we are always behind some protective cordon?”

A police investigation into Friday’s incident is ongoing.