All election candidates offered cyber protection support

For the first time – and amid rising concerns about the safety of politicians – all prospective MPs are being offered access to a package of basic physical and digital security services

For the first time, all general election candidates will be offered a package of basic security services during the campaign – including cyber protections.

The offer includes guidance, briefings and online security services. Any requests for additional security for candidates will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Previously, it was only MPs seeking re-election who had existing security measures upheld, but this is the first time that services will be available to every candidate seeking election. The decision comes after growing concern about the safety of politicians in recent years.

In February, the police were given powers to expand Operation Bridger, the codename for the nationwide police protective security operation to enhance the security of MPs. Under this, all candidate have access to a dedicated named police contact in every force to raise concerns or threats against them and be briefed on security matters.

Female politicians like Conservative candidate Caroline Nokes and Labour shadow minister Lisa Nandy have publicly voiced concerns over their safety following online rape and death threats. Many female MPs now avoid campaigning alone.

Meanwhile both prime minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer’s homes have been targeted by protesters in recent months. Since 2016, two MPs – Jo Cox and David Amess – have been murdered.

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News that security would be extended to all candidates for the first time was welcomed by Lord Walney, the government adviser on political violence and disruption. Last month, his report ‘Protecting our Democracy from Coercion’ published identified a trend of rising extremism in British politics which “systematically seek to undermine faith in our parliamentary democracy and the rule of law”.

Speaking to PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome, the peer said: “It’s welcome that the system is now in place to provide that extra level of protection for candidates through what may well be a spiky and contested election period. It underlines the gravity of the situation that these measures are needed.”

However, Conservative candidate Tobias Ellwood, whose home was targeted by pro-Palestine protesters in February, said he was concerned that candidates with limited experience of contesting general elections will not be aware of how to make use of the security that is now available to them.

“I feel assured that if somebody did try something with me, I would be able to handle it. But there will be a lot of candidates who are not familiar with any of this and how to respond if you’re inexperienced. That’s where disruption could really be quite significant”, said Ellwood, who is seeking re-election in Bournemouth East. 

A version of this article originally appeared on PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome

Harriet Symonds

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