Security questions after Starmer’s speech interrupted by glitter protest

A security breach saw Sir Keir Starmer covered in glitter and manhandled by a protester on the stage of the Labour Party conference on Tuesday afternoon.

– What happened?

Protester Yaz Ashmawi was able to get on the stage at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool’s exhibition centre and throw glitter over Sir Keir Starmer before being bundled away by security.

He is linked to the People Demand Democracy group, which is calling for a proportional voting system and a “House of Citizens” selected by a lottery.

– What is security like around the conference centre?

Merseyside Police have mounted a high-profile operation with measures in place including a no-fly zone for drones around the conference venue.

But security inside the centre is a matter for The ACC Liverpool group which runs the venue.

– How tight is security in the centre?

All people within the fenced-off secure zone surrounding the centre and the Pullman hotel require a conference pass, which is only issued after an accreditation process.

Attendees bringing bags have them searched or scanned, but otherwise security is relatively light-touch compared with the airport-style operation which was in place at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester – partly due to the increased risks surrounding the presence of the Prime Minister.

– Could more have been done?

As with previous leaders of the opposition, Sir Keir has specialist police protection.

But in a democracy a politician has to able to speak to the public rather than be hidden away behind a wall of bodyguards.

– What has the venue said?

The ACC Liverpool group said it ”recognises the rights of all groups and individuals to free speech and freedom of expression” but  the safety of all those attending events including speakers, performers, customers and staff is of the utmost importance”.

The venue said “highly-trained stewarding and security teams ensured the incident was dealt with appropriately”.

– What about Labour?

A party spokesman said Sir Keir was “fine” and “completely unfazed” by the incident.

But the party refused to comment on whether a review of Sir Keir’s security arrangements would be launched.

“I wouldn’t get into security matters”, the spokesman said.

Labour shadow justice minister Shabana Mahmood told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “I’m sure questions are being asked… We will want to make sure that nothing like that can ever happen again.”

– Have similar events happened before?

Conservative Party Conference 2017
Comedian Simon Brodkin, also known as Lee Nelson hands Theresa May a P45 during her keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in 2017 (Peter Byrne/PA)

As with the interruption to Sir Keir’s speech, it was an embarrassing security breach rather than something more sinister.

Sir Keir has also faced disruption before, with environmental activists from Green New Deal Rising heckling him during a speech in July.

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