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Boris Johnson Has Ordered A Review Into Tackling "Rancid" Sexist Abuse Of Female MPs

Boris Johnson has ordered the review after meeting with Conservative women MPs

3 min read

A fresh review into how sexist abuse targeted at female MPs can be tackled has been launched by the prime minister.

Boris Johnson was motivated to act after he was told by a group of female backbench Conservative MPs about the levels of abuse they had received, The Times reported. 

The prime minister attended a virtual meeting of the Conservative Women in Parliament group, chaired by Maria Miller, on Tuesday night where MPs reported the extent of the abuse which has included death theats, rape threats, online abuse and vandalism.

One MP told the paper: "We all welcome the way in which he is taking such a serious interest in something that has truly shocked me – the level of abuse newly elected colleagues and other female colleagues have had to suffer.

"I'm sure it's not just Conservative MPs but it does seem to have escalated.

"There is a lot of tension in the country at the moment."

Meanwhile, speaking to Times Radio about the meeting, senior Conservative MP Caroline Nokes said she believed Mr Johnson was "clearly moved" by their testimony.

"Is it possible to not experience it? Yeah, but there's a guy currently in prison for threatening to kill me," she said.

"I find it horrific and depressing that here we are in 2021 discussing the abuse of female politicians.

"The Prime Minister was very positive on Tuesday night when he was talking to Conservative women MPs about their experiences. He was clearly very moved by what he heard, shocked by what he heard."

Ms Nokes added that tackling abuse was a cross-party issue as she called for further action to be taken to protect women in public life.

According to the paper, Mr Johnson had said there was "something really rancid going on".

"We need to re-civilise our politics and society. It has become very rough and rancorous and it won't get better unless we fight it," he added.

Mr Johnson has previously been accused of fueling abuse against MPs, including in 2019 when he refused to apologise for describing Labour MP Paula Sherriff's concerns over her safety as "humbug".

Ms Sherriff later said that she received hundreds of messages of abuse after the clash with Mr Johnson, and that he had refused to apologise for the jibe.

He later said he was "sorry for the misunderstanding" caused by his comments.

Sexist abuse against MPs has increased in recent years, prompting fears that women could be put off from becoming involved in politics due to safety concerns.

Research conducted by Amnesty International in 2018 found that black women in politics and other public positions were 84% more likely to receive abuse than white women.

Speaking last year after black female MPs were targeted with abuse over their support for the Black Lives Matter protests, Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK said: "The content of this abuse can be extremely disturbing - including death and rape threats - and have a chilling effect on people's willingness to speak out."

She added: "These vicious attempts to silence black MPs must be met with action.

"Racist online abuse must be called out and properly tackled, and social media companies like Twitter must do far more to combat this extremely worrying trend, so that women can feel safe to participate in public debate and politics."

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