Last week I joined the Jo Cox Foundation’s calls to tackle all forms of abuse and intimidation against elected representatives by backing the recommendations in the recently published Jo Cox Civility Commission report.
The report - ‘No place in politics: tackling abuse and intimidation. A call to action’ - was launched last week in Parliament, and I was pleased to be able to be there to support it. The report considers the impact of abuse and intimidation on British democracy – identifying and categorising 28 recommendations to improve civility in public life and respectful politics.
The report highlights the impact of abuse and intimidation on our political system, which it concludes is one of the contributing factors for elected representatives to step back from politics. The report also quoted research which showed that 43% of Welsh MPs have received a death threat, while almost 90% of female Members of the Scottish Parliament had feared for their safety since being elected. We should all feel dismayed and appalled by these statistics.
Amongst the recommendations are one which includes making impartial political and media literacy a mandatory part of the school curriculum and another that asks all elected politicians, especially those in leadership roles, to model good behaviour.
Here in Southend we saw first-hand what happens when rhetoric becomes violence. Sir David was brutally attacked and killed by an Islamist extremist while holding his regular surgery. The parallels with Jo Cox's murder are all too evident and only last week Mike Freer, the Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, announced he was quitting politics due to receiving multiple threats and intimidation.
Clearly this situation cannot continue. Along with cleaning up politics from within, we also need to be able to have open and honest discourse about the societal threats to politicians and public servants from violent extremists.