Dawn Butler says government adviser's call for MPs not to meet with Palestine protesters is 'outrageous'

4 March 2024, 19:06

Labour's Dawn Butler joins Andrew Marr

By Kit Heren

Dawn Butler has hit out at an "outrageous" suggestion from a government adviser on political violence that MPs should not meet with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign because of claims of anti-Semitism on their marches.

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The Labour MP said the call by Lord Walney for party leaders to ban MPs and councillors from meeting the pro-Palestine protest group "until they cut the hate from their marches" was "pretty poor advice from a pretty poor advisor".

Lord Walney, an independent adviser to the government and a former Labour MP himself, told LBC's Andrew Marr on Monday that some of the protests had been "about showing a level of menace" to get MPs to "back down" from their views. "And that is not acceptable".

He said that the ban on meeting groups like the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil was about restoring faith in liberal democracy.

But Ms Butler, who represents Brent in north-west London, told Andrew: "I think that's pretty poor advice from a pretty poor adviser, If I'm honest with you, Andrew, and I think to even imply that somebody can dictate who MPs can speak to is an affront to our democracy."

Read more: Sunak is blaming the fallout of his political losses on protests - and cutting off the lifeblood of our democracy

Read more: Pro-Palestine protesters gather for day of action across UK after Rishi Sunak warned of extremists taking over marches

Palestine protesters in London
Palestine protesters in London. Picture: Alamy

The former Shadow Cabinet member added that Lord Walney's call was "outrageous". She added: "I'm astounded that somebody even thinks that they can do that.

"So you're trying to say that as an MP, if somebody comes to my surgery from just stop oil, I'm supposed to say, 'Ph, no, I can't speak to you.'"

She added: "We live in a democracy, not an authoritarian state. This isn't Russia... this isn't North Korea. I mean, how dare he say something like that? I just think it's outrageous, and I'm actually offended by that as even a suggestion.

"If it was a prescribed group, that's something different but, you know, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Just Stop Oil? I mean, it's ridiculous."

Dawn Butler
Dawn Butler. Picture: Alamy

Lord Walney also suggested that the police were sometimes too timid when policing large marches such as the pro-Palestine protests. "I think certainly there is a case of nerves sometimes," he told Andrew.

Ms Butler said in response: "In all my years of dealing with the police, they've never been described as too timid."

Lord Walney wrote in the Sun on Sunday that environmental protest groups such as should also not be able to meet politicians, saying: "If you threaten MPs and break the law to try to get your way, you should never be invited into the room to express your views."

The recommendation forms part of his report on political violence, due to be submitted to the government shortly.

Lord Walney was a Labour MP for Barrow and Furness from 2010-2018, before resigning from the party to become an independent. He said that the party had been taken over by the hard left, and claimed it had failed to tackle anti-Semitism.

John Woodcock on LBC on Monday
John Woodcock on LBC on Monday. Picture: LBC

He was made a life peer in 2019.

His comments come after Rishi Sunak made a speech in Downing Street on Friday, in which he warned that democracy is being targeted by extremists and there are "forces here at home trying to tear us apart".

Ministers are expected to put forward new measures in the coming weeks to tackle this problem.

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