Dominic Raab admitted that abuse towards MPs is only increasing as they are “vilified” by the media when speaking on Monday.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the justice secretary and deputy prime minister said: “I think a lot of people would be surprised at how widespread [this abuse] is and not just abuse but serious concerted threats.
“We do see the constant vilification of MPs online.”
“The coarsening of the debate and the polarisation has led to attacks on the individuals rather than the topic,” Raab also claimed.
He went on to tell broadcasters he has received significant death threats himself, including suggestions of acid attacks.
Raab said: “There will be people who have had worse abuse than me.
“I’ve had three threats to life and limb over the last few years, so of course I take it very seriously.
“We need to respond to it, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can.”
He later said these threats were dealt with externally and that he had more protection during his time as foreign secretary – but when he was a junior minister, he felt significantly less secure.
Raab told Sky’s Kay Burley that the “elephant in the room” in this debate is the “amount of online hate we all get, it’s out of control”.
— Kay Burley (@KayBurley) October 18, 2021
“The amount of vile abuse directed at MPs – in particular, female MPs – I think has got to stop,” the deputy prime minister said. “To be honest with you, since 2010 when I first became an MP, the risk to us has increased. I think particularly at the local level.
“There’s clearly a lot of people with mental health issues, and the way MPs are out there in the public domain, they can become a lightning rod for [abuse].”
Asked on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme whether the online abuse is actually correlated to the physical threats coming from the far-right, Raab said: “I can’t point to the hard evidence which shows it but intuitively, it feels to me that those who are vulnerable, who are mentally unwell, who are risk of radicalising and who will jump on either a narrative or a pretext for violence or lower-level intimidation, I think it does feel there is that link.”
The senior minister added: “I think I am more at risk from those who are mentally unwell than from a concerted terror attack.”
He added that there has been “ebbing trust” in MPs since the expenses scandal from 2009.
Yet Raab also made it clear that he still stands by free speech, and explained that he did not want those “who want to paralyse our democracy” to win in the bid to increase security for MPs.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.