A war of words has erupted after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab slammed Labour's Diane Abbott this morning for defending Extinction Rebellion activists who blockaded newspaper printing presses on Friday.
Ms Abbott compared Extinction Rebellion to the Suffragettes and criticised the government's plans to reclassify the activists as an organised crime gang.
Her comments come after a public outcry following XR action on Friday which saw protesters targeting Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool, blocking the day's newspapers from leaving the depots.
However, Mr Raab has criticised Ms Abbott and slammed XR's actions.
He told Sky's Sophy Ridge: 'I'm astounded at Diane Abbott's remarks. The idea that it is right to damage property or intervene with a free press in the name of progressive protest is, I think, perverse.
'Actually, I think it is damaging to the cause of climate change.
'I respect the right of peaceful protest but hijacking that with a militant agenda to disrupt the very heart of democratic debate, which is through a free media, is just totally wrong and we're against it, and I think law enforcement action should be taken to preserve our wider freedoms, and they do include a free media.'
Ms Abbott earlier defended the protest, saying direct action is a 'legal tactic' and adding that it would be 'ridiculous' for the Government to reclassify Extinction Rebellion.
Ms Abbott told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday: 'They're not criminals, they're protesters and activists in the tradition of the Suffragettes and the hunger marches of the 1930s.'
Following the stunt, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she wants to take a 'fresh look' at how XR is classified under law, while Boris Johnson deemed the act 'completely unacceptable'.
A potential review could lead to XR being treated as an organised crime group, sources said, as part of a clampdown on its activities, which have included bringing cities across the UK to a standstill by forming human barriers along major roads, and by disrupting public transport.
Dominic Raab slammed Labour's Diane Abbott for defending Extinction Rebellion activists who blockaded newspaper printing presses
Labour's Diane Abbott defended the protest, saying direct action is a 'legal tactic' and adding that it would be 'ridiculous' for the Government to reclassify Extinction Rebellion
Extinction Rebellion protesters blockaded the entrance to Newsprinters in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, meaning some national newspapers did not reach stands today
Her words were not supported by Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, however.
He said Extinction Rebellion protesters were 'shooting themselves in the foot' following their blockade of newspaper printing presses on Friday evening.
Asked on Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme whether he agreed with Ms Abbott's assessment that the demonstrations had been legitimate, he said: 'No ... I think we need to bring the country together to realise we have a climate emergency alongside the Covid health and economic emergency.
'My concern with what we saw was that it actually divides people, it can undermine the message about the climate emergency.
'I fear that when you damage the free press in particular, that is shooting yourself in the foot.
'There was an interview with David Attenborough in one of those newspapers that didn't get distributed - David Attenborough is the environmentalist par excellence, he has a lot to say about climate change and how we protect our environment.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) claimed last night that it was using the disruption to 'expose' newspapers 'failure to report on the climate