Police investigating after Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg caught in melee at university
Video footage captured the scenes at the University of the West of England in Bristol.
Police are investigating after Jacob Rees-Mogg was caught up in a scuffle at a university campus.
The fracas broke out after the Tory MP tried to talk down protesters who interrupted his speech at the University of the West of England in Bristol, witnesses said.
Video footage posted to social media captured the scenes as Mr Rees-Mogg, who has been tipped as his party’s next leader, appears to step in to separate rivals as onlookers call for them stop.
Avon and Somerset Police launched an investigation and appealed for anyone to come forward with mobile phone footage to help the inquiry.
The force said in a statement: “We were called to the University of the West of England’s Frenchay campus at about 6.30pm today following a report of a public order incident.
“No arrests were made and an investigation is under way to see if any criminal offences were committed.”
Mr Rees-Mogg, the MP for North East Somerset, had been speaking at the University’s Politics and International Relations Society.
Following the scuffle, Mr Rees-Mogg told the Telegraph he was “a complete weed”, but insisted he was “absolutely fine”.
“They shouted no platform for Tory scum and other insults, but I’m of the sticks and stones school of thought,” he told the paper.
“I wanted to stop anyone being hit because the whole thing would have degenerated.
“I didn’t think anyone was going to hit me so I felt quite safe intervening.”
An investigation is under way following a public order incident at @UWEBristol earlier this evening.— Avon&Somerset Police (@ASPolice) February 2, 2018
Please call us if you have mobile phone footage of the incident which could help our inquiry.
More details below. pic.twitter.com/7YvBswYsCm
A post advertising the event on the group’s Facebook page said: “This will be a chance to talk to an experienced parliamentarian about the issues of the day, what it’s like to be an MP and how you can get there, or perhaps how exactly one pronounces ‘Floccinaucinihilipilification’.”
The society declined to comment on the incident. The MP’s spokesman has been contacted for comment.
UWE Bristol said it was believed a small group of protesters, who were not students at the university and did not have tickets to the event, broke into the lecture theatre through the back doors, before police and security were called.
Mr Rees-Mogg went ahead with his speech and was escorted back to his car after the event finished, a university spokesman said.
“We are absolutely appalled by the conduct of a small number of attendees,” a statement said.
“We support the democratic right of free speech and peaceful protest. However, we strongly condemn the actions of protesters who disrupted normal debate and behaved in this way.
“There is no place for such action on a university campus or in a civilised society.
“We are delighted that Mr Rees Mogg was able to speak and debate with our legitimate student body in a respectful manner.
“We would like to thank him for his composure and actions to diffuse what must have been a challenging and unprovoked incident.
“We will work with the police to identify the individuals involved and take appropriate action.”
BBC Somerset reporter James Craig told the broadcaster: “Just a few minutes after he started speaking, a group of protesters came into the back of the lecture theatre and started shouting anti-Conservative rhetoric at Jacob-Rees Mogg very loudly, a group of them, and sort of trying to shout him down, basically.
“But rather than halting the event, or ignoring them, Mr Rees-Mogg approached them and walked up to the back of the theatre where they were and tried to talk them down.
“But at that point various other members of the audience got involved as well and that’s when this scuffle… happened and a lot of people got involved.
“It looked to me like Jacob Rees-Mogg himself got pushed and shoved, although he insists he wasn’t.
“But it was a really aggressive and unexpected scene.”
My politics are not those of @Jacob_Rees_Mogg however l utterly condemn the behaviour of those tonight who tried to attack him whilst he was due to speak at an event he was invited to. It's extremely intimidating for any MP who travels alone to an event to be treated like this 👎— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) February 2, 2018
Mr Rees-Mogg’s fellow MPs went on Twitter to offer him their support and condemn the protesters’ behaviour.
Conservative MP Conor Burns wrote: “Free speech is the corner stone of a free society.
“That and exchange of ideas should thrive on any University campus. What was done to @Jacob_Rees_Mogg today by masked moronic hoodlums was an attempt to silence free speech and should be condemned by all in politics.”
Labour’s Angela Rayner posted: “My politics are not those of @Jacob_Rees_Mogg however l utterly condemn the behaviour of those tonight who tried to attack him whilst he was due to speak at an event he was invited to.
“It’s extremely intimidating for any MP who travels alone to an event to be treated like this.”