THE quality of political debate, dialogue and discussion in Britain was long in decline before this frailty was further exposed by Brexit – and its deep divisions.
It’s not just politicians at Westminster who are to blame. It is members of the public like those who have sent five death threats and thousands of abusive messages – including vile rape threats – to Paula Sherriff in the seven days after the Dewsbury MP clashed with Boris Johnson in the House of Commons.
And while Ms Sherriff, and other victims, have been comforted by the support that they have received from the mainstream majority who are appalled at the breakdown of respect, the onus is still on MPs to get their own house in order and start setting a better example to all.
If this Prime Minister can moderate his tone, as Mr Johnson has attempted to do this week, each and every MP can also do likewise. This much is plain after Leeds East MP Richard Burgon – who is also the Shadow Justice Secretary – appeared to weaponise the poisonous parlance of the far-right after becoming involved in a war of words with Jake Berry, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, during the PM’s tetchy exchanges on Thursday with Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Not only did this spill over onto social media, and lead to even more political poison being spread by all those unaware of the precise context of the Minister’s remarks, but it also exposed Labour’s double standards. Why? The party can’t call out Mr Johnson when his conduct falls shortand then turn a deaf ear when Mr Burgon and his ilk allow themselves to become embroiled in such rows. Enough is enough. Everyone, from Parliamentarians to the public and the media, has a responsibility to enhance the tone of debate before even more harm is done to Britain’s reputation as a global beacon of democracy.