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MPs should only have to fear ballot box, says Home Secretary after politicians face threats

The only thing MPs should fear is “the ballot box”, the Home Secretary said on Friday amid escalating anxiety about the safety of politicians.

James Cleverly branded it “nonsense” for protesters to claim they were not seeking to intimidate when they picketed MPs’ homes.

Former Tory minister Tobias Ellwood saw dozens of pro-Palestinian campaigners descend on his house earlier this month, while Just Stop Oil activists have suggested they will target politicians at home.

“Someone saying, ‘I’m standing outside someone’s private house in numbers, but we don’t seek to intimidate’, I’m sorry, that’s clearly nonsense,” Mr Cleverly told BBC’s Today programme.

“Where a mob of people are outside someone’s private residence, clearly with the intention of distorting their future votes, that is unacceptable and we expect the police to deal with it.”

Police already have the powers that they need to stop protests outside MPs’ homes and offices, he said.

“We also want them to understand that they have our backing when they use those powers,” he added. “The only thing that politicians should fear is the ballot box.

“It’s incredibly important... that we do not allow a situation to be created where people cannot vote with their belief and conscience because of fear of reprisals.”

MPs’ safety has become a more pressing issue since the Israel-Hamas war broke out.

Baron Walney, the UK Government’s adviser on political violence and disruption, said “aggressive intimidation of MPs” was being “mistaken” for an “expression of democracy”.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was forced to apologise when a debate on calling for a Gaza ceasefire descended into chaos on Wednesday night.

He expressed regret when his decision to allow a Labour amendment on an SNP motion angered MPs, but said he was motivated by fears for their safety.

Panic alarms have been installed in some constituency offices to notify local police forces if an MP or their staff are in danger.

Ex-home secretary Suella Braverman, who was sacked for making inflammatory statements about how police deal with protesters, claimed extremists were now in charge of Britain.

In a Telegraph article she said authorities had “turned a blind eye” to “Islamist cranks and Left-wing extremists”.

However, her colleagues strongly pushed back on the claims.

Mr Cleverly told LBC: “She’s clearly expressing frustrations that she’s felt whilst she was in this role.

“And I understand that. And she and I remain close friends — that doesn’t mean to say I always agree with everything she’s saying.

“But it is absolutely the case that we must make sure that we crack down on extremist behaviour, it’s absolutely the case that we must not let our democracy be distorted through fear or intimidation.”

He added: “I’m not sure who she’s referring to when she’s talking about turning a blind eye, because I certainly haven’t turned a blind eye since I’ve been the Home Secretary.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper branded Ms Braverman’s word’s “total nonsense”.