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Jo Swinson fights back tears as she reveals threat against her child

4 min read

An emotional Jo Swinson has told the House of Commons how she had to report a threat made against her child to the police, amid cross-party calls to tone down "abusive" rhetoric.

The Liberal Democrat leader revealed the threat amid heated scenes in the House of Commons as MPs sat for the first time since the Supreme Court ruled against Boris Johnson's prorogation of Parliament.

Ms Swinson, who fought back tears as she raised a point of order, said: "I fear that the public watching today will perhaps take the view that the House does not take sufficiently seriously threats of violence."

And she said: "We have had the Attorney General earlier today joke about wife-beating. 

"We have had the Government asked if they would bring forward the Domestic Abuse Bill now that Parliament has resumed and they dismissed those requests. 

"And we had the comments...recalling Jo Cox and the threats that MPs face on a daily basis - and I may add that I today have reported to the police a threat against my child - that has been dismissed as 'humbug'."

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox had earlier apologised to the House of Commons after MPs criticised the reference to domestic abuse.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister came under attack from some MPs for responding to a question calling on him to "moderate" his language following the 2016 murder of Ms Cox, a Labour MP, by saying he had "never heard such humbug in all my life".

The dramatic Commons moment came as MPs returned to the House of Commons for the first time since the Supreme Court ruled against Mr Johnson's decision to shut down Parliament for five weeks.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged Commons Speaker John Bercow to bring together party leaders to agree a joint statement urging supporters to avoid abuse, which he warned could lead people to "threaten public representatives".

He said: "Can I ask you to use your excellent and very good office to call together the leaders of all parties in this House to issue a joint declaration opposing any form of abusive language or threats and to put this message out to our entire community: that we have to retreat each other with respect. 

"If we don't, then what happens is those on our streets who would do violence feel emboldened to do it and the most vulnerable people in our society suffer as a result of it."

Mr Bercow said he was "extremely open" to the idea.


Change UK leader Anna Soubry - a former Conservative minister - also appeared tearful as she condemned a "disgraceful state of affairs", and said MPs had been forced to leave the chamber because of the current atmosphere.

"It gives me no pleasure to say - I am 62 - I've been around and I've seen quite a lot of stuff in my life. It takes a lot to reduce this honourable member to tears. And it gives me no pleasure saying that. 

"But I am not alone tonight - there are others who I believe have left the estate, such has been the distress. And I merely say to everybody in this place, but most notably those who hold the highest of offices, in this, the most peculiar and extraordinary of political times, the language that is used, is incredibly important."

Ms Soubry said that both her mother and partner had been threatened in recent months.

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has himself seen angry protests outside his family home, said some MPs - "particularly women and ethnic minorities" - had been treated "in a quite disgraceful way."

"What's happened to me has been very, very minor," he added.

"What has happened to other members, particularly on social media, has been deeply, deeply unpleasant and troubling. And we all have a responsibility to be mild in our language when we are speaking in this House or outside.

"And, I'm afraid to say, it is something where all sides from time to time - and it would be invidious to pick on individual examples - but we have a responsibility of leadership."

While he acknowledged MPs were "discussing matters of the greatest importance" amid an ongoing deadlock over Brexit, Mr Rees-Mogg said calmness was "to be encouraged".

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