A leading Labour MP has urged Home Secretary Amber Rudd to “call in” the editors of two national newspapers amid concerns over abuse of MPs.
Harriet Harman said the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph were part of a “toxic triangle” of abuse over Brexit.
- August 20, 2019
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A number of Tory MPs who have rebelled over Brexit spoke out about the abuse they had suffered after the newspapers’ coverage.
There was also criticism of Nigel Farage and of calls after the vote for rebel Tory MPs to be deselected.
Rudd said all forms of media must take care with their language, but the real issue was those launching abuse and attacks online.
Harman, Labour’s former deputy leader, asked the Home Secretary: “Does she agree that what we’ve got here is a toxic triangle?
“The divisiveness in the Brexit debate, the Telegraph and the Mail identifying certain honourable members as targets and framing the attack on them, and then facilitated by social media, the mob following.
“When in other countries MPs are threatened with violence because of how they’re voting, we call that tyranny, we call that fascism, but that is what is happening here.
“And as well as commending the bravery, rightly, of her honourable friends, is she going to be brave herself? Is she going to call in the editors of the Mail and the Telegraph?”
A number of Conservative MPs have featured in prominent pictures on the front pages of the Mail and the Telegraph over reports of rebellion against their party over Brexit.
Tory former minister Anna Soubry, who was among those who rebelled, said she had compiled dossiers linking the abuse she suffered with coverage in the Mail and the Telegraph.
She said: “I believe in the freedom of the press, but everybody has a responsibility not to incite abuse and death threats.”
Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who also rebelled over Brexit last week, said he had been shocked by the “vitriolic abuse” he had suffered since the vote, and the fact it was the “new normal” for a large number of MPs.
Sarah Wollaston, another Tory who rebelled last week, said she told her staff to work from home “after I get targeted as a traitor by organisations like the Daily Mail”.
Eddisbury MP Antoinette Sandbach said she received hundreds of e-mails after last week’s vote, many of which were abusive. She added: “However, they were not helped by members of this House calling for deselections.”
Labour’s Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs select committee, pressed Rudd to challenge national newspapers “if they do things which also incite death threats” and other abuse.
Rudd replied: “The real issue, I believe, here are the attackers, who are people who are launching, potentially, their hate and their abuse.
“The area that this covers, in terms of media, is not just national newspapers, it is internet companies, it is commentators, it is television.
“And what I would hope and expect is that the level of discourse taking place here today – and further in the response to the committee’s replies – will start to engage them in a way that they will notice too that the language they use needs to reflect the fact that we are now in an era where MPs are beginning to talk about hate threats, threats of violence, as the new normal.
“That is what we need their assistance in stepping down from.”
Labour’s Chuka Umunna, the former shadow business secretary, said there was a tendency to imply there would be violence if Brexit was not delivered in certain terms.
He added: “So, for example, leading UKIP MEP Nigel Farage said earlier this year at a dinner that if Brexit is not delivered to his satisfaction, he will be forced to don khaki and pick up a rifle.
“Does she agree with me that, whether said in jest or otherwise, this type of talk is totally and utterly unacceptable, because the effect of it is to justify violence, when under no circumstances would it ever be acceptable.
“And can I just press her again. There is no doubt that the Daily Telegraph and the Mail have a particular role to play here, with their disgusting equivalent of wanted lists on their front pages.”