In addition to events in the Middle East, MPs cite coordinated mass lobbying campaigns, the difficulty of confronting hate on social media and environmental activists attacking politicians’ homes as reasons for fear.

Wednesday’s tense Commons vote came against the backdrop of hundreds of protesters gathering outside Parliament to peacefully demand a ceasefire in Gaza, with the message “ceasefire now” broadcast to the famous Tower Elizabeth, home of Big Ben.

The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, which helped organize the protest, said the issue of parliamentarians’ safety “is serious but cannot be used to protect parliamentarians from democratic accountability.” He said he does not support protests outside parliamentarians’ homes, but warned that those who come to “peacefully pressure their parliamentarians on the issue of Palestinian rights” should not be treated as a “security threat.”

With protests | Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Philip Cowley, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London, said the increased exposure of MPs is partly related to their “increased visibility and ease with which threats can be made, as well as the weaponization of MPs’ voting records, even in what would previously be seen as relatively low-stakes debates.

A Labor MP has argued that there is now more awareness of abuse because men are increasingly faced with some of the unpleasant things that women in Parliament have long experienced. “Suddenly it’s not a gender issue anymore, it’s a democracy issue,” she said.

Labor MP Dawn Butler, who closed her offices in 2020 after receiving racist abuse, acknowledges that the political discourse in Westminster at the moment “is quite combative and volatile, possibly even toxic at times. We have to stay safe. And the country has to keep its politicians safe, that is important for our democracy.”

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By Sam