Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has vowed to “carry on” debating with members of the public after he was involved in a scuffle with protesters at a university event.
Police are investigating the fracas at the University of West England (UWE) in Bristol after video footage showed the Brexiteer trying to defuse a fight.
In an interview with Sky News, Mr Rees-Mogg insisted he did not feel threatened or unsafe at the event and he was more concerned about threats aimed at women MPs on social media.
Asked if he believed Friday’s incident would make politicians less likely to engage with the public, he replied: “Well I’m going to carry on.
“If you go back to the 1950s and 1960s, you had election hustings that were much more troublesome than what happened last night. You had eggs being thrown and all sorts of things.”
He added: “I would say of last night’s protest – they were perfectly entitled to come in. They were perfectly entitled to say they disagreed with me. It was a little odd to be wearing balaclavas.”
Mr Rees-Mogg said he did not know a man who appeared to confront the protesters on his behalf.
“I put myself between those two protagonists because no one was going to hit me,” he said.
“It was very unfortunate it became more scuffly after the beginning.
“I never felt threatened or unsafe. I believe very strongly that people have the right to protest.
“I’m much more concerned about some of the really vile abuse and threats that a lot of the women MPs receive, which puts into context what I had last night.
“What I had last night was a few shouty people and a few people getting a little bit cross. It was not the end of the world.
“It was a reasonable protest that went a little bit too far.
“On the other hand, some of the abuse, particularly on social media, and particularly of women MPs, is much more troubling, worrying and dangerous.”
A string of MPs have denounced the masked demonstrators’ actions after they allegedly broke into the lecture theatre.
One witness said they hurled abuse at Mr Rees-Mogg, calling him a “Nazi,” a “fascist and a racist”.
Mr Rees-Mogg said the comments were “mere abuse” and “not a serious attempt at political debate”.
“You can’t have a rational debate with people who just shout and wear masks to cover their identities,” he said.
Mr Rees-Mogg has faced criticism for speaking at a dinner held in 2013 by the Traditional Britain Group, which backs the repatriation of black Britons to their “natural homelands”.
“That’s a disgraceful organisation,” he said. “I didn’t realise they held those views when I went.
“It was clearly a mistake for me to address them. I’ve never shared or held those views. I think it’s a very bad group.”
Mr Rees-Mogg also addressed his claim that Treasury officials are “fiddling the figures” on Brexit to keep the UK in the European Union customs union.
It comes after the Treasury denied it had deliberately created an economic model that made all other options look bad.
“With these forecasts it all depends on the information you put in in the first place,” Mr Rees-Mogg told Sky News.
“They put in the assumptions that lead to their conclusions. They are determined by the measures you put in and I think those measures are fundamentally wrong.
“George Osborne used to think the Treasury used to fiddle the figures. That’s why he set up the Office for Budget Responsibility because he felt the Treasury under Gordon Brown’s chancellorship and prime ministership, just invented the forecasts to suit the political needs of their political masters.
“I’m afraid I think the same thing is happening again. This isn’t new, it’s fairly traditional.”