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Labour MP: Why I confronted Dominic Cummings over PM’s inflammatory language

Exclusive: Shadow minister Karl Turner said he felt compelled to approach Boris Johnson’s right-man after receiving death threats.

Karl Turner confronted the PM’s aide Dominic Cummings (Victoria Jones/PA)
Karl Turner confronted the PM’s aide Dominic Cummings (Victoria Jones/PA)

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

A Labour shadow minister confronted Boris Johnson’s chief aide in Westminster after being threatened following Wednesday’s heated Commons exchange.

Karl Turner approached Dominic Cummings, the man heralded as encouraging a “people versus Parliament” strategy to push through Brexit, to call for him to dial down the “inflammatory” language used by the Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson has been heavily criticised for labelling the Benn Act, legislation that demands he extend the Brexit talks past October 31 if no deal is secured, the “Surrender Act”.

He told Labour’s Paul Sheriff that it was “humbug” that he had deliberately escalated public anger against MPs in a move that caused upset among MPs facing a barrage of threats and abuse.

The PM has refused to apologise for the remarks.

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Karl Turner MP said he was ‘truly worried’ about his family’s safety in the current political climate (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament)

When Mr Turner, a shadow transport minister, saw Mr Cummings in Portcullis House – a building across the road from Parliament where most MPs have their offices – he confronted him about the perceived death threats he had received.

The Hull East MP had scolded the PM in the Commons on Wednesday for “laughing and joking” and using “aggressive language” towards MPs while they were questioning him about the decision to prorogue Parliament for five weeks, a move Supreme Court judges this week ruled unanimously to be unlawful.

He said threats then followed “overnight” that “caused me great stress”.

One person on the Facebook group Yellow Vest Hull said Mr Turner “wants putting in a ditch”, echoing the PM’s phrase that he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask the European Union for an Article 50 extension.

Another said they were tempted to “pay a visit” to the MP, who represents a seat that voted 72% to leave the EU.

Mr Turner was the whip to murdered MP Jo Cox and said he fears similar violent tensions are being stoked up.

In an exclusive interview with PA news agency, Mr Turner said: “My wife is in Hull with my three-year-old daughter while I’m in Westminster – I take threats seriously.

“I saw Dominic Cummings in Portcullis House and I raised with him that the language adopted by the Prime Minister and others yesterday is inflammatory and causing MPs to receive death threats.

“Mr Cummins responded to me: ‘Back a deal, then’.

“I then approached him and said, how is it possible for me to be criticised for not backing a deal.

“I’ve tried three times to back the former prime minister’s deal but it wasn’t good enough for me to support.

I was provoked into making an impassioned plea for him to stop allowing the tone of the debate to be as it is, is because I am truly worried about my family Karl Turner, shadow transport minister

“The PM should be in Brussels negotiating a deal to bring back to Parliament so people like me can support it. I’m desperate to support a deal but it must protect jobs and workers’ rights.”

The exchange ended, Mr Turner said, when Mr Cummings replied: ‘I don’t know who you are.’

“I said, ‘I’m an MP’ and I walked off.”

It is not the first time Mr Cummings, who was the chief strategist for the Vote Leave campaign, has interacted with an MP.

Earlier this month, he is said to have goaded Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, shouting: “Come on Jeremy, let’s do this election, don’t be scared” as they passed each other in Westminster.

Opposition front bench spokesman Mr Turner said he was “truly worried” about his family’s safety, having previously had a person arrive at his house in Hull to confront him.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to apologise for his language (David Mirzoeff/PA)

“The reason I was provoked into making an impassioned plea for him to stop allowing the tone of the debate to be as it is, is because I am truly worried about my family,” he said.

“I’ve had previous experiences of attacks on the house and the family and you can’t decide when you see these threats whether it is a serious death threat or whether it is just someone firing off at the keyboard when they’ve had too much to drink. I don’t know and it worries me.”

In a further sign of escalating backlash against MPs, backbench Labour MP Jess Phillips said a man had been arrested after trying to “kick the door” of her constituency office while reportedly shouting that she was a “fascist”.

Meanwhile, the Equality and Human Rights Commission said political parties had not learnt the lessons from the Brexit referendum.

Commission chair David Isaac said: “Hard line rhetoric and gestures only serve to create a more polarised society and will not heal the divisions that exist in our country.”

PA

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