Newsbeat

Brexit protests: Anna Soubry abuse 'frightens' MP Jess Phillips

MP Jess Philips Image copyright UK Parliament

MP Jess Phillips loves a protest. She's protested many times herself. What she doesn't like is when protests turn nasty.

"I want to see an end to aggressive chanting, very abusive, sexist, racist language, calling people Nazi scum," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

On Monday that last insult was slung at fellow MP Anna Soubry, bringing about a call for more police in Westminster.

Ms Phillips says this kind of protest is increasingly happening outside Parliament - her place of work.

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Media captionBrexit protesters chant "Nazi and scum" at Conservative MP Anna Soubry

The Labour MP tells us there hasn't been this much fear among politicians since the death of her colleague and friend MP Jo Cox in 2016.

"Yesterday for the first time - watching the videos of people shouting that they were going to start war on the police and things - for the first time since Jo died I felt a bit frightened for my safety and the safety of my family.

"I've had people shout things at me, I've had people talk to me and film me as I walk past but never in this mob pack. After yesterday I feel more on the alert for that sort of thing.

"In light of Jo's death security was upped. That happened for all of us but actually we then just sort of went back to carrying on.

"And then yesterday was just a horrible reminder of the last time we were in a sort of Brexit pitch point of what can happen and how feral the environment gets."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jo Cox was murdered by neo-Nazi Thomas Mair in 2016

The Birmingham Yardley MP says it's becoming increasingly common for angry protesters to live stream their exchanges with politicians outside Parliament on social media.

"I want to see an end to what seems to be this sort of filming, live on Facebook, this idea of a citizen journalist going out and fighting the power.

"It's very aggressive to put your phone in someone's face, to try and basically make them an even bigger target because you're sharing it out to a mass audience of people who can potentially hate you."

But Ms Phillips, who voted remain in the EU referendum, says there are a lot of legitimate, peaceful people getting their point of view across in a way she will always support.

"There has been both leave voters protesting and remain voters protesting pretty much solidly since the vote and they have not been threatening.

"I am a protester. I have been on many protests. I have stood outside Parliament and chanted on different protests all my life. So no I don't want to see an end to that."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The police presence was increased outside Parliament on Tuesday

She says for some people there seems to be the attitude that politicians are "fair game" and can be spoken to in a way that wouldn't be acceptable elsewhere.

"We are ordinary people. Whilst we might not have great standing because lots of people disagree with us, I am just a human being. I am a mum, I take the kids to school.

"I am just a person and if people don't like me, that is absolutely fine.

"They can have a robust debate with me but the way to show you don't like a politician and to get rid of them is to not vote for them - not to insult them or threaten them with violence in the street."

The Metropolitan Police has said it is ready to "deal robustly" with any instances of criminal harassment.

Interview by Newsbeat politics editor Jim Connolly.

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