Something is seriously wrong when MPs have to wear a stab vest to work, says Virginia Crosbie

Something is seriously wrong with society when MPs like me have to wear a stab vest to work: Virginia Crosbie reveals the safety steps she has to take after threats to poison her with ricin and the deaths of Jo Cox and David Amess

  • Every time Anglesey MP goes to meet constituents she has to wear a stab vest
  • It comes after the murders of Jo Cox and Sir David Amess at local MP surgeries 
  • MPs’  lives being on the line doing jobs shows there is something seriously wrong
  • READ MORE: Anglesey Tory MP Virginia Crosbie admits she wears a STAB VEST

Every time MP Virginia Crosbie prepares to meet her constituents in Anglesey — perhaps to talk about access to bus routes or soaring energy costs — she first has to wrestle herself into an accessory now vital for her job: a bulky stab vest.

‘Nothing equips you to work out how to make such a purchase,’ says Virginia, 56, whose Conservative gain of this formerly Labour North Wales seat was one of the big surprises of the 2019 election.

‘In the end I went on Amazon and ordered one for £59.99.’ (which she paid out of her own pocket.)

‘It’s really heavy, at about six kilos, and I’m only 60 kilos [9.5 stone]. My back hurts for three days after wearing it to my regular surgeries. It takes quite a while to get into. Then someone else has to do up the Velcro at the back.’

Every time MP Virginia Crosbie prepares to meet her constituents in Anglesey, she first has to wrestle herself into an accessory now vital for her job: a bulky stab vest

Every time MP Virginia Crosbie prepares to meet her constituents in Anglesey, she first has to wrestle herself into an accessory now vital for her job: a bulky stab vest

Over this lumpy garment, Virginia wears a suit jacket ‘because I want to look professional and approachable’.

‘But everyone can see the stab jacket. People say: ‘It’s so sad you have to wear this.’ But this is where we are — there are 650 MPs who were democratically elected to do a job and are now putting their lives on the line doing it. It shows something seriously wrong with society.’

The past two decades have seen several attempts on MPs’ lives. In 2016 Labour MP Jo Cox died after being stabbed and shot multiple times by a 53-year-old man while walking to her constituency surgery, a regular open meeting in Birstall, West Yorkshire. And it was the news in late 2021 that Tory David Amess had also been stabbed to death during his surgery that made Virginia buy her vest.

She had by then endured nearly two years of verbal threats that made her very aware she was a potential target.

‘I was absolutely shocked when I heard about Sir David because I knew he and his team had done everything they could to ensure it couldn’t happen.’

Virginia’s revelation recently that she now wears her vest and employs private security for surgeries, and that her team vets everyone she meets and informs police when surgeries are taking place, rang bells with dozens of her colleagues from all parties. Several have contacted her or announced they, too, are taking similar precautions.

Some, such as Mike Freer, Conservative MP for Golders Green and Finchley, and former Tory cabinet minister Baroness Warsi, are open about this. But many more are unwilling to draw attention to themselves.

After David Amess’s death, then Home Secretary Priti Patel began a review of MPs’ safety. There have been talks of close protection officers and door supervisors in Parliament, but as yet this hasn’t been implemented.

In 2016 Labour MP Jo Cox died after being stabbed and shot multiple times by a 53-year-old man while walking to her constituency surgery, a regular open meeting in Birstall, West Yorkshire

In 2016 Labour MP Jo Cox died after being stabbed and shot multiple times by a 53-year-old man while walking to her constituency surgery, a regular open meeting in Birstall, West Yorkshire

Every politician gets a security assessment and a package of alarm systems, shutters, CCTV and personal alarms. But many feel this doesn’t go far enough.

‘Even before these terrible murders, most MPs were worried about safety because of all the threats we get,’ she says. ‘I think most female MPs, before they’ve even woken up, have had some sort of abuse on social media.’

Sitting with Virginia in a cafe, she comes across as a cheery, garrulous mother of three, with a genuine empathy for other people.

‘I love chatting to people in Asda and in Aldi, going to school plays and to the local art centre. Many of my constituents are elderly and they’re not on social media.’

Virginia’s drive is shaped by overcoming numerous obstacles: a ‘challenging’ childhood; nearly dying in a car crash aged 18; losing her first child in early pregnancy; and her beloved brother’s death by suicide in 2018.

‘I can relate to people — those are the reasons I wanted to become an MP.’

Yet at first, she admits, she was woefully unprepared. On Twitter, she was so often called names such as ‘slag’ and far worse that she quit the platform. ‘It’s horrendous,’ she says, rolling her eyes.

‘I’ve had people tell me they want to poison me with ricin, they want to bomb me, they want to hang me,’ says Virginia. ‘It’s unacceptable.’

Low-level fear is constant. ‘I am a normal person, I walk the dog and spend time with my family. I love to go to my local pub and do karaoke — Islands In The Stream by Dolly Parton is my favourite — but you’ve got to just have that extra awareness.

Someone came up to me [at karaoke] and said: ‘You look just like our local MP!’ and I had to say, ‘Oh, really?’

She’s aware that her persecutors are ‘a tiny, tiny minority’. ‘But unfortunately those people have the loudest voices.’

‘I have fantastic friends who look at what I have to do to stay safe with a mixture of bewilderment and horror,’ she tells me.

The abuse levelled against Virginia is — she says — based around the fact she’s female, a Conservative and representing a Welsh constituency when she grew up in Essex, where her mother worked in Tiptree’s jam factory. Yet her grandfather was a Welsh miner, her father born in Monmouthshire.

As a child, Virginia’s family moved seven times and she attended five primary schools by the age of 11. She was ‘saved’ by winning a place at grammar school.

Sir David Amess (pictured) was stabbed to death during his surgery in late 2021. Virginia said: 'I was absolutely shocked when I heard about Sir David because I knew he and his team had done everything they could to ensure it couldn't happen.'

Sir David Amess (pictured) was stabbed to death during his surgery in late 2021. Virginia said: ‘I was absolutely shocked when I heard about Sir David because I knew he and his team had done everything they could to ensure it couldn’t happen.’

Just before taking her place at Queen Mary, University of London, however, she was in a car crash in Turkey that nearly killed her. ‘Because they thought I was going to die, they just sewed me up really quickly so [my face was] full of grit and glass.’

It took ten years of operations to remove all the debris. Even today, she has to have occasional surgery — after a recent House of Commons meeting, she realised blood running down her face was glass working its way out of her cheek. After university, she wanted to teach but says she worried her face would scare children, so went into banking. When she became pregnant, she quit, only to learn her baby had no heartbeat, resulting in a miscarriage.

Then five years ago, Virginia — who had retrained as a maths teacher — lost her brother, Simon, aged 52. A father of three, he took his own life after a short period of mental illness.

‘I remember exactly where I was when I got that phone call from my sister-in-law. I was sitting in the car, leaving our home to pick my son up. Most things in life you can reverse, but this was the one thing that was utterly final — I could never get him back.

‘We were incredibly close growing up. One of the saddest things I’ve ever had to do was put a tie on his young kids to go to his funeral. Even now, I still text him regularly.’ She laughs ruefully. ‘I’ve just wished him Happy New Year.’

No wonder Virginia is acutely aware of how precious life is. ‘I feel I’ve essentially been given a second chance after the car accident. So I want to use it really, really wisely.’ Sadly, more and more women are telling Virginia they’d never consider a career in politics.

‘These threats are putting people off not only becoming MPs but becoming local councillors, too. It’s really corrosive of our democracy.’

Despite it all, Virginia likes to interact with those hostile to her politics. ‘One chap abused me in the street, saying ‘Where’s your stab jacket?’.

‘The police called him in, but he’s got a young family so I didn’t want him to have a criminal record. I just wanted to meet him, so I explained the situation and the guy was genuinely moved. I gave him some House of Commons chocolates for his children.’

‘Once people meet you, they see you as a human being.’

Virginia won’t be cowed. ‘A lot of people say: ‘Gosh, you must be really tough to put up with this.’ But actually, I’m not tough at all — what I am is interested in other people. And I’m really determined not to be a victim.’

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