Why are the authorities still getting the security for MPs so wrong?
All of the research and expertise contradicts the security advice.
The headline in the Time newspaper this week stated ‘Labour MPs given security advice after threats over Israel.
The article is primarily related to the internal conflict in the Labour party with regards to the differencing views on the Israeli/Palestine crisis.
It goes on to state “Labour MPs have been offered beefed-up security advice and are being contacted by police after direct threats were made to shadow cabinet members, MPs and councillors amid the Israel and Gaza tensions”.
There are fears that MPs will be met with threats as images and WhatsApp messages branded them “traitors” and “backstabbers” over the Labour party’s position. This was exactly what was experienced during the Brexit years by MPs and exactly what my team had to counter.
I set up and ran the team tasked with protecting MPs and researched how every serious attack on them has occurred this century. There are very clear patterns.
The attacks since 2000 are different to those experienced prior to that time, which were generally conducted by organised terrorist groups such as the IRA. Since then, every attack has been conducted by a ‘lone actor’.
There has been significant research over the past 30 years that have proved how such public figures are targeted. This research highlighted specific indicators that almost without exception are seen is such attacks, both successful and thwarted. One of the factors that has been identified is that directly communicated threats rarely predict an attack. Dr Reid Meloy, one of the world's most respected experts in this subject stated on the Defuse Podcast that the likelihood of a directly communicated threat leading to an attack occurs in less than 2% of cases.
My research demonstrates that since 2000, none of the attacks were precipitated by directly communicated threats. They were however clear patterns and trends and indicators present. In fact it was exactly my knowledge of these indicators that enabled me to identify ‘the next attack’ in 2017 which I shared with my colleagues in the domestic CT team who thwarted the attack on Rosie Cooper MP.
So why is it that MPs are having their security beefed up as a response to the latest rally of directly communicated threats.
It is in my view, a lack of understanding and knowledge of how MPs and other public figures are targeted and attacked. This should be the bedrock of the protective intelligence and security that supports Operation Bridger, a multimillion pound protective security operation.
Other than the wasted money, the real issue is that this lack of knowledge and understanding is putting MPs at risk.
This is because when those tasked with protecting them don’t understand the attack planning of those who target MPs, they will miss the indicators and waste resources unnecessarily.
According to the Times article, one Labour politician has been accosted at home in recent days by a constituent demanding answers on the party’s position. There is concern that there was a “real fear” there would be a terrorist-style incident. “There is a real fear that combined with mental health issues it could push a lone-wolf actor over the edge,” the shadow minister said.
I don’t disagree with this concern, but the next attacker will not be someone who makes a direct threat to an MP. It is crucial that protectors are qualified and experienced in identifying the genuine threats and understand the methodology of those who will be planning the next attack.
Equally important is that MPs are reminded of their responsibilities and their duty of care with regards to how they manage their own security and ensure that they follow good practice.
I take no pleasure in highlighting the fact that the last attack, the murder of Sir David Amess MP was entirely preventable, I don't want to be saying that about the next attack.