24 FEB 2017

Calling time on the abuse of MPs

Kent Messenger Column - 24-02-17 

When I started thinking about standing for Parliament, an experienced MP and friend told me 'it's the roughest toughest career in the world and you will need your bullet proof vest'.

I suffered bullying as a child and learned how to handle myself at an early age; as it turned out most of the antagonists I dealt with weren't curmudgeonly at all when faced with a comeuppance, merely loud mouthed cowards.

So, I went in to politics with my eyes wide open. That was in 2005. Twitter had yet to be invented and facebook was only a year old. Times have changed.

Today's bullies are able to broadcast their lies and hatred worldwide, free of charge and with a shocking level of immunity. Most are still the cowards of old, this time hiding behind a cloak of anonymity created by internet providers and social networking giants.

For reasons as yet unexplained to me with any cogency, MPs are among those who suffer more than others from cyber bullies and recently things have come to a head.

Last week Labour MP Diane Abbott revealed that she has been subjected to continual abuse of one kind or another since being elected as the first black female MP in 1987, and there had been an intolerable escalation following the recent vote to trigger Article 50 in Parliament.

The nature of this abuse is racist, sexist and violent. It affects MPs and their staff and is now perhaps the greatest factor in repelling talented individuals from entering politics, particularly women and those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

A legitimate Parliament must be as diverse as the nation it represents and we must therefore combat this toxic torrent every-which-way.

I therefore fully back Diane's call for a Parliamentary inquiry, and I will press for the removal of anonymity in social networking sites, exposing the bullies to rightful accountability.

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