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Mon, 13 July 2020

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Commons woe as abusive Westminster protesters scare off annual charity pancake race

Commons woe as abusive Westminster protesters scare off annual charity pancake race

Emilio Casalicchio

2 min read

MPs were left distraught today as it emerged an annual parliamentary pancake race had been cancelled due to security fears amid Brexit tension in Westminster.

The competition between MPs and journalists - which takes place every shrove Tuesday to raise money for people with brain injuries - was due to take place just three weeks before the UK quits the EU.

But organisers have called the event off for the first time in more than 20 years amid rising concerns about aggressive pro-Brexit protesters who have been hurling abuse at MPs and journalists who want a fresh EU referendum.

Commons Speaker John Bercow said he hoped the race, planned by Rehab for 5 March, would still go ahead, as he revealed police had agreed to boost security around the Palace of Westminster.

Labour MP Rupa Huq told the House today that the event had been ditched because organisers thought “the climate outside is so horrible that it’s not worth running”.

She added: “Apparently Shrove Tuesday is very near the exit date and they don’t think it’s worth the risk.”

Mr Bercow said: “I’m very sorry to hear of the news of the postponement or cancellation and the rationale for that decision.”

He said the force had agreed to step up security in Westminster in a meeting yesterday with Met Police chief Cressida Dick and other parliamentary authorities, 

The police hope the change will allow MPs, journalists and member of the public to “go about their business unimpeded by aggressive, threatening or intimidating demonstrators,” he added.

And he said the aim was to make organisers feel “confident and comfortable that they can safely proceed with their plans”.

A group of angry pro-Brexit campaigners in yellow hi-vis vests has become notorious in recent weeks for waiting outside parliament and hurling abuse at MPs and journalists.

Pro-EU MP Anna Soubry was called a “Nazi” and a “liar” by the Brexiteer protesters and was chased down the street being called a “fascist”.

Left-wing political commentator Owen Jones was also confronted by the group, and filmed them dishing out a raft of insults towards him as he walked around the same area.

Charity Rehab - which organises the annual pancake race - said: “Having considered the timing of the planned event amid the intense focus a unique debate such as Brexit demands of parliamentarians and media, Rehab’s management and events team decided it would be inappropriate to go ahead with our charity race at this time.”

The UK is due to leave the EU when the two-year Article 50 process ends on 29 March.

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