Opinion

MPs face abuse and death threats as fury over Europe rises

MPs face abuse and death threats as fury over Europe rises
  • The Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team, set up following the murder of Ms Cox, reported that crimes targeting MPs had risen from 111 in 2017 to 238 between September 2018 and July 2019.

  • Most of the reported crimes involve harassment, malicious communications, criminal damage or theft.

So angry has the debate over Britain’s planned withdrawal from Europe become that some MPs say they are in fear of their lives.

Death threats and personal abuse, directed mostly at women or members of ethnic minorities, have soared, fuelled by an atmosphere in the House of Commons which Speaker John Bercow described as “toxic.”

DEATH THREATS

Prime Minister Boris Johnson used the word “humbug” in connection with the threats, arousing such anger that he was later forced to apologise. Humbug might sound old-fashioned and comparatively inoffensive, but its dictionary definition is “deceptive or false talk or behaviour.”

Thus, Johnson appeared to be dismissing the MPs’ concerns, particularly when a reference had just been made to a woman MP, Jo Cox, who was murdered in 2016 by a far-right extremist.

At least seven women MPs reported receiving death threats. Jo Swinson said threats had also been made to her child. Tracy Brebin said she had received a fourfold increase in abusive messages and the police had promised to provide protection at her office. Luciana Berger said six people had already been convicted for targeting her, and Paula Sheriff said she received hundreds of abusive messages and three serious threats in two days after she exchanged heated words with Johnson in Parliament.

WEIGH WORDS

The MPs say much of the abuse uses the same language as that employed by Johnson and other MPs in Parliament. Ms Sheriff said, “People are parroting his (Johnson’s) words in the emails we are getting. The fact that we have a prime minister who is stoking up this toxic atmosphere is beyond irresponsible.”

In a move to cool passions and alleviate fears, Speaker Bercow called Westminster party leaders together and worked out an agreement to use moderate language. A joint statement said those in leadership positions “have a duty to weigh their words carefully.”

The leader of the opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, said the rhetoric in the Commons needed to be “toned down” and urged MPs not to “use hyperbolic language which is dangerous.”

The Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team, set up following the murder of Ms Cox, reported that crimes targeting MPs had risen from 111 in 2017 to 238 between September 2018 and July 2019. Most of the reported crimes involve harassment, malicious communications, criminal damage or theft.

RACIAL HATRED

A government report said spending on security measures for MPs, such as CCTV for their offices or personal alarms, had increased from £171,000 in 2012 to £4 million in 2018.

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I reckon you could guess what sort of a man William Charlton is from the way he glared defiantly at the TV cameras as he arrived at Newcastle Crown Court to answer charges of racism.

Prosecutor Sharon Beattie said Charlton, aged 55, from Washington, County Durham, addressed a string of public meetings in nearby Sunderland intending “to stir people up against Muslims, Asians, blacks and the police.”

One event was attended by more than 800 people.

He described immigrants as “monsters,” and said “they seem to have more rights than me in this town,” and he told people to stay away from bars which he claimed were frequented by “immigrant rapists.”

Ms Beattie said his speeches often “riled up” crowds and after one event, two Asian men were attacked outside their homes.

MANIPULATIVE

Charlton claimed his comments were aimed at criminals rather than immigrants and he spoke up because he believed the country was “in a mess.”

Judge Edward Bindless told Charlton, “You have been revealed as an intelligent, articulate, skilled public speaker, but also a manipulative bully.”

A jury found Charlton guilty of five charges of racial hatred and he was jailed for 21 months. As he was led away, he shouted at the jury members, “I hope your daughters don’t get raped.” He gave a thumbs-up sign to his supporters in the public benches who clapped for him.

The court heard that Charlton had been fined in 2007 for racially aggravated harassment.

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As a comment on the disastrous state of Britain today, this notice in a bookshop in Fowey, Cornwall, could hardly be bettered:

“The Post-Apocalyptic Fiction section has been moved to Current Affairs.”

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Now just to confirm there is always somebody worse off than you are: A young man was lying in a hospital bed, his entire body swathed in bandages. Attempting to make conversation, the guy in the next bed asked, “What’s your job?” “I used to be a window cleaner.” “When did you give it up?” “About halfway down.”

In a pharmacy, a man asked, “Do you have something to cure hiccups.” Without warning the assistant came from behind the counter and punched the customer in the stomach. “What did you do that for?” gasped the man. “Well, you don’t have hiccups any more, have you?” “No,” said the man, “but my wife still has.”