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MP Warns That Online Hate Could Lead To More Real World Attacks On Parliamentarians

MP David Amess was attacked and killed in his constituency in 2021. (Alamy)

2 min read

Conservative MP Vicky Ford has said that the UK has become an outlier for its number of "real world" violent attacks against politicians.

The former minister said she had asked the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which represents national parliaments, to conduct research into political violence ahead of the UK's next general election.

Writing in The House, Ford said threats to MPs had become "almost commonplace" as she revealed some MPs were planning to stand down at the next election because of safety fears.

Describing one MP who is planning to step down from the Commons, she added: "She rolled her eyes as she spoke about having to put a restraining order on a constituent who was threatening her safety. Needing to use restraining orders is not unusual."

The study will examine whether online and offline violence has increased ahead of other elections around the globe, and what other countries have done to counter threats.

Concerns about MPs' safety have grown in recent years following the murders of David Amess and Jo Cox, while several other MPs have been the targets of violent attacks.

Ford added: "One female colleague recently explained to me that she had received three death threats in one week alone, and another spent her birthday 'dealing with' a constituent who was threatening to slit her throat and those of her staff.

"Another of my female colleagues has said publicly that she always wears a stab vest for her constituency surgeries."

She added: "Fear of violence puts people off standing for election, and thus perverts our democracy. I know that the Speaker of the House of Commons treats this, and the safety of politicians, extremely seriously."

Ford said she hoped that the UK could learn from other countries, including Kenya, which have taken steps to reduce political violence around election times, including adopting a no tolerance approach to online hate speech and encouraging civil society, business and religious leaders to make public statements calling for "calm" during election periods.

"We should not take violence in our politics as a given. If we want free and fair democratic processes, and safe elections then we all need to play our part," she added.

"We should all be mindful that the words we use have consequences, ensure our own actions demonstrate respect for those with different views and be prepared to learn lessons from what has worked in other countries."

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