Theresa May to announce crackdown on ‘toxic’ abuse of election candidates

Posted On: 
4th February 2018

Theresa May will lay out plans for a new criminal offence aimed at tackling rising abuse and intimidation in politics.

Theresa May is set to give a speech on the issue on Tuesday
PA Images

The Prime Minister will use a speech on Tuesday marking the centenary of women first gaining the vote to urge all politicians to “take a stand for decency, tolerance and respect”.

The intervention comes following an probe into alleged death threats and intimidation aimed at candidates in last year’s general election.

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The report, published in December, found women, ethnic minority and gay candidates were more likely to suffer abuse.

As part of the plans Mrs May will also pledge that from May 2019, candidates in local elections will no longer be forced to publish their address on ballot papers.

In her speech, ahead of a consultation on the issue, she will urge figures from all sides to act in halting the “coarsening and toxifying” of public debate.

“In the 21st century it cannot be acceptable for any woman — or any person — to have to face threats and intimidation simply because she or he has dared to express a political opinion,” Mrs May will say.

“It is time we asked ourselves seriously whether we really want it to be like this. Whether we are prepared to accept a permanent coarsening and toxifying of our public debate or whether, together, we will take a stand for decency, tolerance and respect.”

“We can all see this change happening and I know that many share my concern about it.”

The announcement comes after Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg was forced to see off masked protestors after they stormed an event on Friday night.

The Prime Minister will also take aim at social media trolls, saying that sites such as Facebook and Twitter are being “exploited and abused”.

"In public life, and increasingly in private conversations too, it is becoming harder and harder to conduct any political discussion, on any issue, without it descending into tribalism and rancour,” she will add.

"Social media and digital forms of communication - which in themselves can and should be forces for good in our democracy - are being exploited and abused, often anonymously.

She will add: “British democracy has always been robust and oppositional but a line is crossed when disagreement mutates into intimidation, when putting across your point of view becomes trying to exclude and intimidate those with whom you disagree.”