Theresa May is facing a furious backlash from MPs who said they have been assaulted and subjected to death threats after her controversial televised address blaming them for the Brexit deadlock.
Parliamentarians from all sides lined up to condemn her remarks, warning that they had put them in danger of physical attack by angry members of the public.
Anna Soubry, the pro-Remain MP who now sits as an independent, said she was unable to travel home this weekend after receiving “very, very serious” death threats.
Senior backbenchers said the Prime Minister’s broadcast on Wednesday evening meant it would be even more difficult for her to get her Brexit deal through the Commons when it returns next week.
I’m not able to go home this weekend, I am not safeAnna Soubry
Downing Street defended the remarks saying they had been intended as a “message to the public” to explain why she was now seeking a delay to Britain’s withdrawal date.
Asked about claims that they had jeopardised MPs’ personal safety, a No 10 spokeswoman said: “I flatly reject that.”
However Ms Soubry, who has previously been a target for pro-Brexit protesters, said: “I’m not able to go home this weekend, I am not safe.
“When a senior police officer tells your partner that if it was his wife in the situation that I am in he would say ‘I am frightened for her safety’ I think that tells you everything.”
Her comments came after the Commons Deputy Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle emailed MPs on Wednesday – before Mrs May’s address – advising them to travel by taxi or with colleagues amid heightened tensions in the run up to next week’s votes.
He tried to assault me, grabbed & bent my glasses and for a moment I thought he was going to hit me. 3 grown men had to prise him off me. This is not normal, I’m representing my constituents but @theresa_may has whipped up fear and division with her speech last night— Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP🌹🏳️🌈 (@lloyd_rm) March 21, 2019
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said three men had to intervene on Thursday when an assailant tried to attack him, grabbing at his glasses after shouting that politicians were “traitors”.
Mr Russell-Moyle blamed the Prime Minister for having “whipped up fear and division with her speech last night”, while Labour frontbencher Angela Rayner said the incident in Brighton was “terribly worrying”.
In the Commons, Labour MP Paula Sheriff said she had contacted the Prime Minister last week urging her to “dial down the hate” after being told her head “should be chopped off”.
Fellow Labour backbencher Diana Johnson said she had received messages calling her a traitor and saying that she and two other Hull MPs “should be shot and hanged”.
It prompted speaker John Bercow to intervene, saying: “None of you is a traitor. All of you are doing your best.”
In her address, Mrs May said the public “have had enough” with the failure of Parliament to deliver on the 2016 referendum vote, adding: “I am on your side.”
Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said her attack on MPs was “terribly misjudged” at a time she was seeking to build support in the Commons for her deal.
“To accuse MPs of being a road block when we haven’t ever really had the opportunity to vote on other options and things like that I thought was quite extraordinary,” she told BBC Radio 4’s the World at One.
“I suspect there will be people who were thinking of voting for the deal who will have been put off,” she said.
She is not fit to be Prime Minister, does not deserve the support of MPs, and she will not get itLisa Nandy
“People who perhaps have voted for the deal will be thinking ‘well, why am I going to help this process out?’
“Unfortunately, what it does is it makes people even more entrenched just at the moment when maximum flexibility is needed.”
Lisa Nandy, one of the Labour MPs who it was thought could be prepared to the support the deal next week, said Mrs May’s comments were “incendiary and dangerous.”
“She pitted Parliament against ‘the people’, deploying an inflammatory rhetoric reminiscent of far-right populists whose influence is steadily growing in Britain, America and across the world. Reckless doesn’t do it justice,” she wrote in an article on The Guardian website.
“She is not fit to be Prime Minister, does not deserve the support of MPs, and she will not get it.”