The hate we refuse to name
A new report on the intimidation of politicians ignores the foul behaviour of Islamists and trans activists.
UK politicians are facing increased levels of abuse, death threats and online harassment. So claims a new report from the Jo Cox Foundation, the charity named after the Labour MP who was murdered by a far-right extremist in 2016. The foundation has called for a ‘new tone for political life in the UK’.
The report, entitled No Place in Politics: Tackling Abuse and Intimidation, features contributions from local councillors and MPs describing their experiences of abuse in recent years. Some of the evidence presented is genuinely worrying. Over 40 per cent of Welsh MPs and Senedd members have received death threats, and quite a few parish councillors report having received rats posted through their letterboxes.
Many more of the anecdotes here are dubious. One local councillor claims to have feared for her life after an angry crowd shouted at her over a ‘controversial planning application’. This altercation between a politician and members of the public might have been lacking in civility, but is it really helpful to include it in a report about abuse and intimidation? There’s a real risk here of treating displays of public anger over controversial political decisions as essentially criminal.
But there is a much bigger problem with this report. It fails to even mention some of the most prevalent sources of hostility in politics today.
Take Islamist extremism. The report does contain one reference to the murder of Sir David Amess in 2021, who was killed at his constituency surgery. It says this ‘highlighted the risks that MPs face’, particularly when meeting constituents face-to-face. Yet it fails to mention the very specific threat that Amess faced. He wasn’t the victim of just anyone. He was stabbed to death by Ali Harbi Ali, a man who described himself as a ‘soldier of Islamic State’. He said he wanted to ‘punish a British lawmaker for the UK’s actions in Syria’.
Amess’s murder was not the product of a general climate of abuse or intimidation. And it certainly had very little to do with people being rude on social media, as some MPs tried to claim in the immediate aftermath of Amess’s brutal slaughter. No, he was murdered by an Islamist, determined to hurt those he deemed to be enemies of Islam.
The report was published too soon to mention the resignation of Mike Freer last week. The Tory MP for Finchley and Golders Green in London announced he was stepping down after an intensification of Islamist hostility towards him over his support for Israel. His constituency office has even been the subject of an arson attack.
Yet it’s telling that the report failed to mention any of the prior abuse and worse that Freer has faced from Islamists over the years. Indeed, the man who killed David Amess had actually first targeted Freer. But on the evening he attempted to kill him at a scheduled constituency surgery meeting, Freer was unexpectedly summoned to Whitehall at the last minute. It seems threats to life don’t count for the Jo Cox Foundation if they come from Islamists.
The other glaring omission in the report is the problem posed by trans activism. Indeed, it fails to make one single mention of Labour’s Rosie Duffield, the MP who has faced prolonged and intensive abuse in recent years. Since she liked a tweet about women having cervixes nearly four years ago, trans activists have subjected her to endless rape and death threats.
Duffield is far from the only female MP to face the wrath of trans activists. Others who have spoken up about the threat posed to women’s rights by trans ideology have also been relentlessly abused.
Perhaps most disturbingly, the report fails to mention the harassment and intimidation of Jewish politicians. Anti-Semitic abuse was on the rise before the Israel-Hamas war, but it has exploded since the 7 October attacks last year. Yet this report omits it all.
It seems that the authors of No Place in Politics are unable to see the wood for the trees. They overlook the violent animosity of Islamists and the unhinged behaviour of trans activists while hyperventilating over a group of citizens protesting a local planning application.
These forms of intimidation are a serious and growing problem in political life right now. But don’t expect the political class to speak out about it.
Ella Whelan is the author of The Case For Women’s Freedom, the latest in the Academy of Ideas’ radical pamphleteering series, Letters on Liberty.
Picture by: Getty.
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