LibLink: William Wallace Aggressive language from political extremes and media will spark violence against MPs

Our William Wallace writes for Politics Home about the dangers of the language used in political discourse.

Almost at the same time, the Telegraph tweeted this:

Tom Brake was quick to call them out:

So now the PM who, whatever she delivers in terms of Brexit will leave us worse off, is being given the “enemy of the people/saboteur” treatment.

The temperature needs to come down, and fast. Heaven knows, we don’t have any time for what the Conservatives are doing, but you do have to be careful in the sort of language you us. As William points out, it has consequences:

Last week I met two MPs, from different parties, walking along Whitehall comparing the death threats they had received. Both were men; they remarked that many women MPs had received more such threats than they had, and were – two years after the murder of Jo Cox – even more concerned that violent language might lead to violent attacks. Trolling, often vicious in tone, happens to everyone who engages in public debate. But what many parliamentarians have been facing have been concerted attacks, triggered by speeches that question the outcome of the referendum, which suggest a degree of organisation behind these verbal attacks and leave MPs worried about what actions might follow. Anna Soubry MP went public on the issue recently, remarking that most of the abusive messages that had flooded into her mailbox came from well outside her constituency, but that many included threats of actual violence.

This can’t be allowed to escalate:

Intelligent political leadership would call for all sides to lower their aggressive tone, and in particular tell the right-wing media that they are encouraging the nastier elements of British society. There are political extremists, and mentally-disturbed people, who will follow the logic of these headlines, and plot to attack democratic politicians; a popular mood of disillusion with political elites feeds their fantasies. Many politicians do feel intimidated, and are taking security precautions under police advice; some who have made death threats have now been prosecuted. The prime minister should therefore speak out, to tell partisans both of Leave and Remain to moderate their language, and call in newspaper editors to remind them of their responsibilities to promote informed public debate. Sadly, it’s unlikely that Theresa May is willing or able to speak for the national interest and the quality of our democracy in this way.

You can read the whole article here.

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12 Comments

  • At the same time support for UKIP is steadily rising, expect them to pass ourselves and be back in 3rd place by September. However their organisation appears to have collapsed.Interesting to see their vote this week, they have a candidate or two.

  • Death threats and any physical violence are of course wrong. The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail are normally wrong as well – if in a different sense. (And I am not sure that such language wins over many hearts and minds – the Mail’s hatchet job on Corbyn at the election seems if anything to have backfired).

    But… We need to be careful to be against robust political debate.

  • Parallel to this is the inevitable rise in the Polls for UKIP, we must be careful, if they pick up the protest vote it will hit us and we could again be fourth not third. Fortunately their organisation seems to have collapsed but it would not take too much for it to build again, given the present state of affairs.

  • Hmm. Seems like the Torygraph has made it’s mind up about the deal. Even Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (who I usually have a lot time for) is issuing a battle cry for a hard line stance against the EU. TM could be in trouble and that would probably mean an election. God knows what that will throw up. What a mess.

  • Theakes : since the cabinet meeting last week the Lib Dem share of the vote has increased at a similar rate to UKIP. We are now averaging 9.4% and all polls this week have been either 9% or 10%. UKIP have “soared” to an average of 4.5% with polls this week between 3% and 6%.

  • Yeovil Yokel 12th Jul '18 - 5:44pm

    theakes – You’ve lost me, how can an increase in the UKIP vote be damaging to the Lib Dems, we surely don’t compete within the same political space? It is the Tories in particular, and Labour to a lesser extent, who have most to fear from a UKIP upsurge, although, as Barry Long points out, it’s a modest increase in their polling numbers anyway.

  • Yeovil Yokel 12th Jul '18 - 5:55pm

    As for the Daily Telegraph questioning whether May is guilty of treason – the phrase ‘….pot calling the kettle black’ springs to mind. When the Telegraph was viciously and personally attacking Gordon Brown pre-2010 I remember thinking at the time that, in its purpose of bringing down his government, this was surely verging on treasonable behaviour.

    May should join Hacked Off and jointly sue the Telegraph.

  • Well if T.May is guilty of treason then so is the entire Cabinet, as it stood at 6pm last Friday…

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Jul '18 - 7:30pm

    Yeovil Yokel – ‘how can an increase in the UKIP vote be damaging to the Lib Dems, we surely don’t compete within the same political space? ‘

    Wasn’t the suggestion that something in the order of a third of the-then LDP vote went for LEAVE in the referendum?

    Ian Sanderson – ‘there are voters so dissillusioned with both Tory and Labour who are happy to cast a vote for the party most likely to defeated both of them.’

    Yes…but to my mind that is actually a part of the problem. If you sell yourself as the party for the professionally narked then all you are doing really is reinforcing the sense of grievance. That of course might not be the intent, but I would suggest it is the outcome. Take a look at the treatment Nick Clegg got for some idea of how it pans out.

    The article is hyperbole. However there is a reasonable question to be asked about politics as a negative exercise. ALL parties need to answer it, and I do mean ALL.

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