MP condemns ITV over decision to turn murder plot into ‘stupid’ drama

Rosie Cooper accused the broadcaster and anti-fascism campaign group Hope not hate of using her as a ‘marketing tool’.
Rosie Cooper accused the broadcaster and anti-fascism campaign group Hope not hate of using her as a ‘marketing tool’.

Labour MP Rosie Cooper has criticised ITV’s decision to turn a plot to murder her into a “stupid, stupid, stupid” drama series.

The MP for West Lancashire also accused the broadcaster and anti-fascism campaign group Hope not hate (Hnh) of using her as a “marketing tool”.

She urged ITV and the advocacy group to donate all the money generated from the TV series to the Jo Cox Foundation, which was set up following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016.

The Walk-In, which launched on October 3, chronicles the story behind the neo-Nazi plot and how it was foiled by Hope not hate.

It was announced in September – the same day Ms Cooper announced she was standing down as MP for West Lancashire.

The Walk In
Stephen Graham as Matthew Collins in the ITV drama The Walk-In (ITV/PA)

She said in the Commons: “I am appalled at ITV’s recent treatment of the threats to MPs.

“I have been used as a marketing tool by both Hope not hate and ITV. What excuse is there for a press release that says, ‘Who is Rosie Cooper, and who wanted to murder her?’

“There is no defence to that. So, let’s test the public defence, the public interest defence, to their despicable behaviour and I call on Hope not hate and ITV to donate all money and profits generated from this TV series, both here and abroad, every single penny should go to the Jo Cox Foundation.

“We should not tolerate this kind of behaviour.”

The Labour MP thanked Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Conservative former prime minister Theresa May, Tory ex-home secretary Priti Patel and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace for their support.

She also praised ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the former executive director of his office, Karie Murphy, for allowing her to use a government car to reach the Old Bailey for the sentencing after the second trial.

Ms Cooper claimed “ITV’s despicable cameraman chased me up and down the road at the end of the first trial”.

An ITV spokeswoman told the PA news agency: “We are very sympathetic to the horrific ordeal Rosie Cooper MP has experienced, but we’d like to point out that this has never been the emphasis of our press and marketing around the series The Walk-In.

“The series has never been described in this way in any ITV press release.

“From Hillsborough, Bloody Sunday, Appropriate Adult, Little Boy Blue, A Confession to The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jeffries, ITV has a long record of broadcasting factual dramas based on or representing real events.

“Like these, The Walk-In is an important story which we believe it is overwhelmingly in the public interest to broadcast. We always conduct the making of these series carefully and responsibly.”

Ms Cooper’s comments came after the Conservative chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee raised a point of order in the Commons, asking the Speaker for advice on how to ensure that “threats on the lives of our colleagues are not treated as entertainment”.

Alicia Kearns said: “ITV has made a drama series about the heinous plan to murder the honourable lady for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper), whose permission I have to make this point of order.

“What advice can you give to Members in this situation to ensure that the facts are fairly presented, that threats on the lives of our colleagues are not treated as entertainment… and that these series do not risk re-victimising those of us still living under significant threat from life?”

Sir Lindsay replied: “The House will know that the safety of members, our families and our staff in this House is one of my highest priorities.

“Like all Members of this House, however, I would have thought that any depiction of threats made against parliamentarians is undertaken responsibly, based on the facts, and mindful of the impact of those subject to those such threats.

“Can I just say, I am also very concerned, and a friend of mine was the person that undertook those threats.

“Now I have got to say I think we all stand in awe of the bravery that she’s shown and the courage to ensure that she is still a Member of Parliament… even if she might be going to new pastures.”

The ITV drama centred on informant Robbie Mullen, his handler at Hnh, Matthew Collins – played by Stephen Graham – and how the organisation infiltrated banned far-right terror group National Action (NA) and prevented the attack on Ms Cooper in 2017.

Mr Mullen, a former member of NA, spent a prolonged time undercover as a mole for Hnh.

His information about the plot and the activities of NA was passed on to the police and resulted in a high-profile trial at the Old Bailey.

Jack Renshaw, now 27, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, is currently serving a life sentence for preparing acts of terrorism and is played in the series by Dean-Charles Chapman.

The plot to kill Ms Cooper came just a year after the terrorist murder of Ms Cox.

A Hope not hate spokesperson told the PA news agency: “We sympathise with Rosie Cooper for everything she has been through in recent years. No-one should endure murder threats simply for doing their job.

“Clearly, we are disappointed to hear Rosie’s words in the chamber today. In 2017, several members of our organisation worked tirelessly and at tremendous sacrifice to themselves to foil the murder plot against Rosie Cooper.

“This ITV drama and documentary highlight the very real danger of far-right extremism – especially for those in public life.”

The spokesperson added: “We cannot change what has happened to Rosie Cooper, but we can continue to work to tackle far-right extremism”