Labour MPs support Tory bid to jail war memorial vandals for up to 10 years

George Martin
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2020/06/12: A man takes a picture of a boarded up Sir Winston Churchill statue ahead of this weekends Black Lives Matters protest in fears it will be vandalised. (Photo by Dave Rushen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A man takes a picture of a boarded up Sir Winston Churchill statue in London. (Getty)

Several Labour MPs have thrown their weight behind proposals from a large group of Conservative politicians to jail people caught desecrating war memorials for up to 10 years.

Reports in The Sunday Telegraph suggested that a group of Tory MPs was putting pressure on the government to introduce strict new penalties for those who vandalise monuments.

As many as 125 Tory MPs in the Blue Collar Conservative Group have reportedly voiced their support for a new Desecration of War Memorials Bill.

Home secretary Priti Patel is said to be considering the plans alongside Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, and Suella Braverman, the attorney general.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: DFLA and other protest groups gather at the boarded up Churchill statue in Parliament square on June 13, 2020 in London, England. A number of anti-racism protesters have gathered for demonstrations in the UK despite the cancellation of the official events due to fears of clashes with far-right agitating groups. Following a social media post by the far-right activist known as Tommy Robinson, members of far-right linked groups have gathered around statues in London, which have been targeted by Black Lives Matter protesters for their links to racism and the slave trade. (Photo by Guy Smallman/Getty Images)
Protests at the boarded up Churchill statue in Parliament square on Saturday. (Getty)

Opposition MPs voiced their support for the proposals on Sunday after the scheme was revealed.

David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, was asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr whether he supported fast-track prosecutions for those caught desecrating memorials.

“Well the scenes [on Saturday] were ugly and very, very threatening. And the scene involving urinating at PC Keith Palmer’s memorial was utterly, utterly dispicable and must have hurt his family greatly.

“Fast-track, yes absolutely- of course speedy justice. But I would say we have a massive backlog currently in our justice system because of coronavirus. So how the government is going to do that we will certainly scrutinise.”

A week after a Black Lives Matter protest turned to violence when the statue of wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was daubed in graffiti which called him a racist, and despite warning from police not to attend protests at all today - and to be off the streets by 5.00pm - a large group crowd of right-wing groups and veterans gathered at the boxed-in statue to 'protect it from further vandalism' by Black Lives Matter and anti-racism protesters. Riot police stopped the right-wing groups from proceeding up Whitehall where the Cenotaph was also behind a screen, resulting in scuffles, on 13th June 2020, in London, England. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Hundreds were arrested during Saturday's demonstrations. (Getty)

While the shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds told Sky News' Sophy Ridge he also would back the government in creating a specific offence against damaging war memorials.

He added that he would be willing to work cross-party to support such efforts in parliament.

"I was extremely disturbed by the scenes yesterday (Saturday) which were completely and utterly unacceptable," he told the host.

"I want to say a particular word as well about that awful scene of someone urinating next to PC Keith Palmer's memorial.

"Absolutely despicable behaviour and I hope that individual is identified and brought to justice."

It comes after more than 100 people were arrested at a far-right protest in London on Saturday.

One image emerged from the protest showing a man urinating next to a memorial to PC Keith Palmer, the officer who was stabbed to death during the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack in 2017.

On Sunday it was announced that a 28-year-old man has been arrested in Essex on suspicion of outraging public decency over the incident.

Tobias Ellwood MP, gave the dying officer first aid outside the Houses of Parliament following the attack, tweeted asking for help in identifying the man - calling the image “abhorrent’’.

Labour MP Jess Phillips also wrote: “The man saying this was an actual soldier for our nation who ran towards danger to try to save Keith Palmer who also served to protect our country.

“The man in the picture claims to care for our country but he is just pissing on us all.”