The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has said that there is an “unprecedented” number of threats against MPs as misogyny, racism and divisive issues such as Brexit fuel online trolls.
“We’ve seen a very considerable rise [in threats] in the last year,” the Commissioner said, adding that the Metropolitan Police was taking its responsibility of protecting MPs “very seriously”.
Rise In Threats Against MPs ‘Not Good For Democracy’
Rise in threats is not good for policing levels. Image credit: Wikimedia
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, who also spoke at the committee hearing, revealed that in 2017, the police recorded 156 threats made against MPs, a figure which rose 126 percent to 342 threats made in 2018.
From January to April this year, they recorded over 600 incidents and 152 crimes, a 90 percent increase in threats made compared to the same period last year.
Anybody should feel that they can walk from their place of work and that they are not going to be harassed or obstructed.
Cressida Dick, Met Police Commissioner
Cressida Dick explained that MPs should feel safe, but there was only so many measures that the police could take.
“Anybody should feel that they can walk from their place of work and that they are not going to be harassed or obstructed. That’s the way people should be able to act.
“What we cannot get to is a situation where every single parliamentarian has a full-time police officer standing next to them. That’s not good for democracy, it’s not good for policing, it’s not good for anybody. There’s a balance to be achieved, with everything,” she said.
Women And BME MPs ‘Disproportionately Targeted’
Brexit has fostered threats among both Leave and Remain supporters. Image credit: Flickr
“People from minority communities and women seem to be being targeted disproportionately,” explained Basu.
A small number of MPs, numbering just 10, made 29 percent of the reports.
“There is a very clear pattern that has emerged around misogyny and race.
“Brexit has been a huge driver of this,” he said, adding that there was a relatively even split in the number of threats made to both Leave and Remain supporters.
Shouldering The Burden: ‘This Man Had Made A Career Out Of Harassing Me’
Jess Phillips, MP for Bimingham Yardley. Image credit: Parliament
Jess Phillips, the MP for Bimingham Yardley, has been the victim of a whirlwind of trolls in recent weeks after a UKIP MEP candidate, Carl Benjamin, wrote to Phillips on Twitter in 2016, saying “I wouldn’t even rape you”.
Since the tweet was discovered, he added to the comments in a new YouTube video, saying: “There’s been an awful lot of talk about whether I would or wouldn’t rape Jess Phillips. I suppose with enough pressure I might cave, but let’s be honest nobody’s got that much beer.”
After the comments became public, Phillips was then followed by a man as she was leaving Westminister.
“Just leaving Westminster and man ran down the street alongside me asking me about why Carl Benjamin shouldn’t be able to joke about my rape. Shouting: ‘I pay your wages,’ ” the MP tweeted about the incident.
I realised that I did what all women do in these situations – I had been putting a brave face on it and pretending that it was all fine.
Jess Phillips, MP Birmingham Yardley
West Midlands Police have confirmed that they are investigating this, as well as Benjamin’s comments.
Talking on the Victoria Derbyshire show, Phillips admitted that she had recently broken down in tears “just because I felt the enormous weight of years and years and years of abuse”.
“I realised that I did what all women do in these situations – I had been putting a brave face on it and pretending that it was all fine.
“It dawned on me that, for four years essentially, this man had made a career out of harassing me. And I felt harassed. I felt ‘How can somebody say that they would rape me if forced, and be a legitimate candidate in an election?’
“[It is] one thing when he was just some idiot off the internet but it’s a different thing when he is standing on the same platforms I am standing on, that he will potentially go to a Parliament himself as an elected representative,” she said.