The sister of murdered MP Jo Cox has warned activists and campaigners - as well as politicians - need to fight a clean campaign in the General Election amid a growing trend of loved ones speaking out about the impact of being related to an MP.
Kim Leadbeater, the sister of Ms Cox who was murdered in her Batley and Spen constituency in 2016, said politicians had been “dehumanised” and said it was “very worrying” how the children of candidates, such as Hanna Flint and Ellie Cooper - the daughters of Caroline Flint and Yvette Cooper respectively - felt the urge to speak out about the fear families had.
Ms Leadbeater said: “We need to remind people that politicians are human beings with families and friends and loved ones. We’ve got a couple of weeks left [in the campaign], we just have to think about what kind of society do we want to live in?”
Ms Flint’s daughter wrote in Grazia magazine yesterday about the pressures that come with being the child of an MP, and Ms Cooper’s daughter previously took to Twitter to air her views.
Ms Leadbeater said the pair were brave for speaking out and said: “I think people are saying we’ve had enough of seeing our loved ones be abused, it’s a very difficult thing to do and I worry when I speak publicly about things. You are putting yourself in a vulnerable position as well.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of politicians and there is genuine fear and upset, I’ve had so many politicians cry in front of me.
“When someone chooses to be a politician you know it’s going to be a tough world but when that descends into rape threats, death threats, attacks on property, I hope we can all agree that’s not okay.”
Ms Leadbeater pointed to an incident in Rotherham on Sunday where a 72-year-old Labour supporter was allegedly assaulted by a man while canvassing.
A 51-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm.
And a woman in her 70s suffered cracked ribs and bruising after being thrown over the bonnet of a car in Bromyard, Herefordshire, on Saturday.
Witnesses said the woman was attacked by a female who said she was a ‘Marxist, Trotskyist’.
“The other really important thing is it’s not just about candidates,” Ms Leadbeater said, suggesting there had been reports of activists and staff members acting inappropriately.
“I’ve spoken to quite a few MPs who have been behaving in a respectable manner themselves.”
Ms Leadbeater, as part of the Jo Cox Foundation, is currently working with the Committee on Standards in Public Life on a Joint Standard of Conduct, which will set out the minimum standards of behaviour expected from all political party members.
Earlier this month all six candidates standing in the former constituency of Ms Cox became the first to sign a cross-party pledge for an election campaign free of abuse and intimidation.