Labour accuse Tories of 'vitriolic personal abuse' during election campaign

Posted On: 
12th July 2017

Labour have accused the Conservatives of sanctioning "vitriolic personal attacks" against them during the general election - as a Tory MP accuses Momentum of targeting his party's candidates.

Labour have accused the Conservatives of targeting Diane Abbott, among others, for abuse.
Credit: 
PA Images

Conservative MP Simon Hart will use a parliamentary debate this afternoon to call on Jeremy Corbyn to rein in the left-wing group, which has been credited with helping Labour exceed expectation in the election.

But in a pre-emptive move, Labour chairman Ian Lavery and frontbencher Cat Smith have penned an open letter to Tory chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin saying his party's campaign was based on "smears and untruths" directed at senior figures. 

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They say: "We are writing to express our dismay and deep concern at the vitriolic personal attacks that defined the Conservative Party’s election campaign.

"The Conservatives ran a negative, nasty campaign, propagating personal attacks, smears and untruths, particularly aimed at one of the most prominent women MPs, and indeed the first black woman MP, Diane Abbott. 

"Such attacks on politicians, the consequent intimidating and abusive language and threats of violence towards them online, deter many people from entering politics.

"Parties and politicians have a responsibility to set an example, by treating others with dignity and respect, including those with whom we strongly disagree. The Conservative Party has instead promoted personal attacks as a core component of its national campaign."

ANNE MARIE MORRIS

Mr Lavery and Ms Smith also point to the controversy over Tory MP Anne Marie Morris, who has had the party whip removed after she referred to Brexit talks as the "n*****r in the woodpile" at an event earlier this week. 

They claim the use of the racial slur is "evidence of the level to which abusive and discriminatory language has been tolerated by the Conservative Party".

"It is important that parliament discuss unacceptable behaviour towards candidates from all parties, disproportionately faced by women candidates and candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds.," they say. "But the Conservative Party must also take responsibility for the attacks financed and conducted as part of their national campaign."

The letter ends by urging Sir Patrick to implement "a zero-tolerance approach to abuse, discrimination and intimidation within your party".

But it is Labour themselves who have come under the spotlight recently over their activists' behaviour during the campaign. 

In a speech over the weekend former Labour frontbencher Yvette Cooper acknowledged that female Conservative candidates had been "targeted with some vile abuse from the left".

Tory MP Sheryll Murray told the Commons last week how some of her opponents had carved swastikas into her posters, and written “burn the witch” and “stab the c*nt” on social media.

Speaking ahead of his debate, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire Mr Hart told the Daily Mail: "Rather than just putting out feeble messages online saying you condemn all this, Jeremy Corbyn needs to actually do something about it.

"Mr Corbyn and the leaders of Momentum need, when there is even the faintest whiff of this stuff, to say: 'You are not welcome in our party or to campaign on our behalf and wear the Labour badge if this is how you're going to behave'."

Menwhile, The Sun reports that Tory candidates were even targeted by police officers during the election.

One serving police officer emailed government minister Guto Bebb directly to tell him: “While I still have an a***hole, I will campaign every day to get rid of you as an MP."

Another officer posted a message to him on Facebook that accused him of being “a Tory c***”.

Mr Bebb said: "How can I have any confidence my complaints will be taken seriously when I receive these sorts of communications from an officer serving in my own local police station?"

Theresa May has pledged a crackdown on abuse against candidates by online trolls.

She said: "I call on all party leaders to condemn that. There is no place for that activity in our democracy and I'm surprised at any party leader who is not willing to condemn that.

"I think, frankly, we should stand together on this and say there is no place for this in our democracy. People should be able to stand for election, we should be able to conduct elections, without people fearing about what is going to happen to them as a result of that."