Priti Patel branded ‘insincere’ in House of Commons after apology to Labour MP

Yvette Cooper speaks in the House of Commons (left) and Priti Patel responds (right). Photograph: Pa

Yvette Cooper speaks in the House of Commons (left) and Priti Patel responds (right). Photograph: Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

Home secretary Priti Patel has been branded 'insincere' after she issued an apology to a Labour MP over the behaviour of a Tory activist.

Patel has insisted she is "hugely apologetic" after an activist from her party sent a message claiming he would pay "crackheads" to harm Yvette Cooper.

Cooper had criticised the Conservative Party's national response to her case after outlining she had received apologies from the local Conservative association.

Former Tory council candidate Joshua Spencer was sentenced to nine weeks' imprisonment and handed a 10-year restraining order at Leeds Magistrates' Court last week.

The 25-year-old constituent of Cooper wrote in April that he was working to get Cooper "hurt" over her opposition to a no-deal Brexit.

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It was also revealed neighbouring Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns gave a "very positive character reference" for Spencer without contacting her first, and that the Tory party had allowed Spencer at the general election count after he had been summonsed.

Asked about the incident, Patel told Cooper in the House of Commons: "Let me say this right now, on the floor of the House, that is categorically unacceptable and wrong. There is no place for intimidation at all in public life.

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"In terms of the national party response, she can take it from me right now that I am hugely apologetic for what she has had to put up with.

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"That's simply unacceptable and that is something we should all be mindful of and look into as representatives of major political parties. None of this should be tolerated."

Patel said she understood Jenkyn's comments were "in support very much of getting the individual some help and support" that they needed in terms of accessing mental health services.

At this point, Patel claimed SNP MP Joanna Cherry was "chuckling away", to which Cherry could be heard saying: "I am laughing because you're being insincere."

This prompted heckling from some Tory MPs, who called on the MP to "withdraw" her remarks.

The SNP MP later raised a point of order to outline the level of abuse she has received in recent years, noting: "The level of abuse I have continued to receive has taken its toll on me, my girlfriend, my family and my friends.

"I really do hope the government is going to tackle it in this session."

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