Whatever happens with Brexit, our MPs and Journalists need to feel safe

Last weekend’s People’s Vote March passed off peacefully. I missed it because it was my daughters birthday but it would have been an amazing family atmosphere.

Yesterday by contrast, saw disgraceful scenes outside Parliament. A Channel 4 film crew was jostled by pro Brexit protestors. One person was arrested for assaulting a police officer  in central London and additional arrests were made.

Frankly we should hardly be surprised.

Perhaps this was a reaction to Nigel Farage’s call for a “revolution” to save British politics in the Daily Telegraph on Brexit day?

In 2017, Farage also told us that he would “pick up a rifle” if Brexit isn’t delivered.

Betrayal is at the core of their message. No matter that the language of war has already seen one MP killed or that others have received death threats to the point that Anna Soubry was told by police not to go home last weekend.

When Soubry was labeled a Nazi by one protestor before Christmas, fellow MP Kate Hoey re-tweeted a piece by spiked which talked about the “confected outrage” over the incident. If a fellow MP won’t stand up for you in the face of such aggression, then something has gone badly wrong in our democracy.

This febrile atmosphere has also been created by the Prime Minister herself with her ill judged attempt to pit MPs against the people last week in a desperate attempt to get her deal through Parliament. Her friends in the media have never taken the time to apologize for penning by lines about judges being “enemies of the people” or rebel Tory MPs being “mutineers and saboteurs”.

I joined the Lib Dems back in 2015 and a year later was really keen to stand as a PPC. That has all changed. Nowadays you have to not only be thick skinned but prepared to tolerate abuse at a level which nobody should have to suffer as a public servant in the mother of all parliaments. I know of at least one other person who has the right credentials to be a brilliant MP but won’t put herself forward in part because of the current atmosphere towards politicians.

Theresa May has blamed the concept of Brexit for divisions in our country. What she hasn’t done is consistently called out those in her own party and those in Tory press who have sewn the seeds of division. Elements of the Labour Party have been equally appalling. The treatment of Luciana Berger was reprehensible and the final straw which broke the camel’s back for her.

It’s not been a picnic for our hard working media either. When the political editor of the BBC has to have a bodyguard to go to a Labour Party Conference then that party needs to look itself in the mirror.

Whoever takes on the mantle of Prime Minister and whatever happens with Brexit, one thing should be top of the government’s agenda. Making sure that politicians and those who report on them feel safe. We have some brilliant MPs on all sides and some of the best journalists in the world. Let us never forget that even if we happen to disagree with them.

* Chris Key is dad of two girls, multilingual and internationalist. He is a Lib Dem member in Twickenham who likes holding the local council and MPs to account.

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11 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Mar '19 - 4:24pm

    This is excellent , thanks to Chris.

    Today is the fortieth anniversary of the killing of Aery Naev, the then Shadow Northern Ireland spokesman, mp, and mainstream Conservative, followed a few years later by that of fellow Tory, Ian Gow, both democratic , neither extremists, murdered by terrorists.

    On the loss of Jo Cox, my wife and I went to Westminster and laid flowers, as so many did.

    We are indebted to brave people on all sides, Anna Soubry , whether some agree or not on the issues, with her, is a remarkable person of conviction and courage.

    This party is highly responsible. It needs to be aware that it can also be responsible to be less certain and more reflective, on Brexit, and much else. The new always certain and sure take on topics, is not as liberal as the more thorough and pragmatic approach, of compromise and considered opinion.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Mar '19 - 4:44pm

    Two mass demonstrations recently, but how many arrests?
    Zero, zero, none at all! less than one each time.
    I was there for the first one unable to attend the second one.
    I still have a sticker in our car window from 2016.
    Vote Leave was fined £61,000 (breaking electoral law) decided to appeal, decided against.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Mar '19 - 4:54pm

    Cummings: Contempt of Parliament
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-47712040

  • Airey Neave DSO MC MP was a very brave man who was the first British prisoner to escape from Colditz. He was wounded and captured just before Dunkirk in 1940. His death was absolutely appalling.

  • Actually I think our polticians and press need to be very worried. They need to be worried that this mess will land on their doorsteps and they will have to explain why between them they got us into this mess. Because if their are no consequences, Lord knows what stupidity they will cook up next.

  • David Becket 30th Mar '19 - 6:38pm

    The whole mess comes down to attempts to save the Tory party, an organisation that is not worth saving and has outlived whatever usefulness it ever had.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Mar '19 - 9:55pm

    You are correct, David, Airey Neave was indeed the victim , of a horrible attack, as mentioned by me, but a hero in earlier life , too, as mentioned by you, forgotten now, as a boy it made a real impact, as did all such being a London kid, the tension, incidents , eg the Harrods bombing, enough to effect my views forever, and my politics, as a staunch opponent of terrorists, and proponent of peace, in Northern Ireland.

  • The usefulness of the Tory Party is clear to those who finance it.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Mar '19 - 7:39pm

    The Sunday Times reported (page 8 column 6) that Channel 4’s Jon Snow’s “unscripted observation” that he had “never seen so many white people in one place” while reporting on Friday’s pro-Brexit protests. He did say it. It was broadcast.
    Compelling a journalist of the highest integrity to apologise should not happen.
    Hypocrisy? or cowardice? If cowardice, who is the bully?

  • John Littler 1st Apr '19 - 3:51pm

    Now the Independent Group are becoming a new centrist party as “Change UK” to fight the Euro Elections, the LibDems had better make up their minds quickly and form an electoral “Progressive Alliance” and with Greens and maybe Welsh Nationalists, or that ground is too crowded.

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