A video emerged on Jan. 7 of Conservative MP Anna Soubry being abused by pro-Brexit, right wing protesters. Whilst giving a live interview with Simon McCoy of the BBC and Kay Burley from Sky News, she was interrupted by yellow vest, right wing protesters who called Soubry a “Nazi,” traitor, and liar, the BBC reports. After completing the live interviews, Soubry — who does not support Brexit — was surrounded and followed by pro-Brexit protesters as they hurled abuse at her down the street. She has since criticized the police for not stepping in and assisting her. Whilst the video is completely shocking, it is by no means the first incidence of abuse of women in British politics.
A group of more than 60 MPs have signed a letter calling on police to improve their response to the abusive and threatening protesters outside of parliament, the BBC reports. The MPs, who represent different parties in parliament and sit on either side of the Brexit debate, have said their concerns have been "repeatedly raised" with officers and senior policing staff. The BBC has reported that the police are currently looking into whether any crimes were committed but no one has been arrested.
On Good Morning Britain, Soubry described the incident and the response she had from the authorities: “The police just stood there. The police were there. It's a definite breach of the peace. This particular group of people is roaming around Westminster intimidating people and they are known to police, blocking bridges and setting things off at Downing Street.”
Speaking out about her own experiences of harassment in Westminster Labour MP Jess Phillips said, “people deserve to be safe at work. I didn’t come here to be bullied by far-right bullies, or anyone, we came here to do what we felt was best.”
The BBC has also reported that the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has come out in support of Soubry, calling for a change of policing policy outside of parliament and describing the harassment as “a type of fascism.”
However, Soubry has been quick to point out that it isn’t just MPs that have suffered at the hands of abuse from protesters outside of parliament. Journalist Kay Burley tweeted:
“I need security to escort me from my place of work. These people are not pro-Brexit. They are pro-intimidation. They specifically target me and scream ‘slag’, or ‘f*cking fascist’ over and over and over again and those are just some comments I can mention in polite company.”
The Daily Mail reported that BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg was followed and threatened by an angry mob of men screaming abuse before Christmas.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain Soubry added: “It crossed the line in December, it was journalists who were being attacked. [Sky News' political editor] Faisal Islam, who is male, was racially abused by these people, it's the same group, all on video, and the policy of the Metropolitan Police is to ignore it.”
In response to the most recent incident of harassment involving Anna Soubry, Laurence Taylor, the deputy assistant commissioner for metropolitan police operations, “our role is to facilitate peaceful protest and balance the needs and rights of all those present, including protesters, MPs and members of the public."
Speaking about the harassment of women in parliament, Soubry said, “It does appear to be targeted at women. There was an incident involving [BBC journalist] Laura Kuenssberg where no action was taken, and as you know [Parliament] is crawling with police officers … Women in part are thinking 'why would I want to do a job like that?' and that is really dangerous.”