EVEN though there have always been occasions when politicians, and other public figures, have had to take additional security and safety steps, the current abuse being meted out to MPs, as well as their families and staff, marks a depressing new low.
The latest target is Rotherham MP Sarah Champion who is now receiving additional police protection following death threats. The reason? Some brave and hard-hitting words on her part about the prevalence of “British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”.
Yet, given that Rotherham’s abuse scandal has dominated Ms Champion’s workload since she was first elected in 2012 after her predecessor, Denis MacShane, was jailed over the MPs’ expenses scandal, she’s more than qualified to make such assertions without having to fear for her life from those who hold opposing views.
However, while the issues here are specific to Rotherham, this is not an isolated incident – MPs from all parties have been at increased risk from a small section of dangerous extremists who are incapable of putting forward reasoned arguments without resorting to threats of violence.
Some will blame social media for this. Others will contend that it’s the legacy of a political class who have ignored public opinion for too long. Yet, while Britain remains polarised by Brexit’s deep divisions, it does not excuse – or justify – the current levels of vitriol and the police, backed up by the criminal justice system, must take a clear stand against those convicted of endangering public servants and others. Two years after the senseless murder of Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox was supposed to mark a turning point in the conduct of political debate, the consequence will, sadly, be fewer individuals of note, and stature, standing for election because they can’t justify the risks. Is that what the country wants and needs at this time?