The vitriolic nature of political debate has reached new lows and must be reversed, according to the sister of murdered former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox.
MPs, journalists and activists have been the subject of intense verbal abuse in Westminster in recent weeks, often requiring police presence to ensure safe passage.
Commentators have roundly comdemned the abuse and many have grown concerned at what has been described as ‘the fine line between abuse and violence’ towards MPs after footage of the vitriol aimed at anti-Brexit campaigner Anna Soubry prompted a national debate into what can be done to calm the situation.
Kim Leadbeater, the sister of Mrs Cox, said that it is an issue that has has to be reversed from the top down.
“This isn’t an isolated incident,” she said, “This has happened across the political spectrum and we all have to take some personal responsibility.
“That has to start with politicians. It has to start with journalists. It has to start with people who have a public position of responsibility. They have to behave responsibly.
“Hopefully that will have a knock on effect on the rest of us who also have to think about how we conduct ourselves.
“And we have to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about the type of country we want to live in and how we want our political discourse to be conducted.
“Do we want to live in a society where it’s acceptable to call people ‘Nazi’ and ‘scum’ and ‘traitor’ and make death threats?”
Current Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said that much could be drawn from Ms Cox’s style of leadership.
“Jo was dedicated to uniting our communities and her legacy should be one of kindness, compassion and inclusion.
“These are the values we should focus on as we navigate our way through the challenging weeks and months ahead.
“We cannot be cowed by the intimidatory tactics of a small number of people and we must not allow these voices to resonate so widely simply because they shout the loudest.
“It is crucial that we do not let the actions of a handful of individuals, however abhorrent they are, shape our national debate and subvert our democratic processes.
“What is clear is that many people are angry. Angry at growing inequality and angry at what they see as a failure of the democratic process.
“I believe this anger highlights the pressing need for us to work together towards a fairer, more equal society.”
Social media abuse is a big part of the problem: Sherriff
Footage of MPs being hounded by protestors outside the House of Parliament is just a glimpse into what is experienced online on a daily basis.
That’s according to Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff, who said that laws should be put in place to prevent online abuse, which she said was prevalent.
She said: “There is a distinct difference between scrutiny and debate and bullying and abuse – they have no place in our democracy or our society. Like many MP’s, I’ve been subject to threats and intimidation.
“It’s particularly a problem online and it does need to be challenged in our society. Social media platforms need to be more accountable, and our laws more robust – it’s not something we should just accept and it will take a co-ordinated effort to overcome.
“These times of heightened tensions don’t look set to pass any time soon, and with many difficult decisions ahead, people need to treat each other with respect if we value true freedom of speech.”
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin agreed, saying: “In terms of online abuse, it is something most MPs, myself included, and people across society have endured at some point – many on a daily basis.
“No one should have to endure such abuse, and while I understand tempers are running high, I’d implore people not to resort to such tactics.”