Friday, September 15, 2017

Time to crack down on abusive behaviour - in politics and in the home.

The level of abuse aimed at people in politics is getting worse and is having very damaging effects.

This week's Whitehaven News had a very unfortunate and unhelpful headline about the fact that the MP for Copeland wisely and responsibly follows the official security advice issued to MPs following the murder of Jo Cox to protect MPs and their staff from the possibility of being attacked while holding surgeries.

This does not mean, as anyone who reads the actual text of the article will realise but the headline did not make clear, that she does not hold surgeries or will not meet members of the public, it means that appointments have to be booked for those surgeries and constituents who do so will then be directed to the meeting place, rather than the general details of  the events being published for any terrorist or dangerous nutter to read on the internet or in the paper.

It dos not matter what part of the political spectrum someone is on, or how strongly you or I may disagree with their views or what they are doing to the country, abuse and actual or threatened violence are not an acceptable means of expressing that disagreement. There is one legitimate means of trying to get rid of someone who you think should not hold an office and that is to vote against them at the next election.

Sadly MPs of all parties have been getting increasing levels of abuse and it is very apparent that this is particularly directed against women MPs.

As Tom Harris writes in today's Telegraph, " We tolerate a peculiarly nasty form of insult when it comes to -women in politics."

He writes:

The rules of this boys’ game are fairly straightforward. First, you wait until an opposing party has the temerity to elect a woman – a woman! – as its leader. Then, after you’ve finished with the obligatory tutting and rolling of the eyes, after you’ve made the inevitable (privately expressed) jokes about periods and shoes and make-up, you start throwing the insults.
Now, here’s the tricky bit: like Just A Minute, the popular Radio 4 game show, you can be disqualified for repetition. The kind of insults you use against the incumbent must be of a different scale of ferocity, of violent imagery, than anything you’ve used on the woman’s predecessors. Current players of this game – Cable, George Osborne, Owen Smith – have really got the hang on this rule: Gordon Brown never had to sit at the dining table with his family and laugh off suggestions that he be murdered, cut up into portions and placed in freezer bags.

As Tom says,

"We need to stop using this kind of language, which is particularly damaging when it emanates from the mouths of those who claim to believe in the need to encourage more women into politics. Theresa May is not fair game for misogyny just because she happens to be doing things to the country with which you disagree."

It's happening to women of all parties and whether the person it is directed against is the present PM, Diane Abbott, Nicola Sturgeon or anyone else, it's got to stop. All parties must crack down on any of their own members who are caught doing it.

I don't of course mean that you cannot express disagreement with someone's policies, make fun of a aft argument they have produced or a failure to add up numbers correctly. But we should not be using violent or sexist imagery, let alone threats of violence.

As I mentioned in another post earlier today, the level of  domestic abuse in Copeland is shocking. I don't believe that any other part of Britain should be complacent about this problem either. A single case of domestic assault is one too many.

It is hardly going to help stamp out domestic violence if we allow the language of violent abuse to be used to carry out political discourse.

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