Harassment in Public Life: 18th December 2017

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the support that you have given to some of us who in recent days have had particular death threats and abuse because of—as has been identified by both the shadow ​Home Secretary and the Home Secretary—newspaper comments. I am not going to go into them at length; others can talk about that. My question to the Home Secretary is quite specific.

You, Mr Speaker, have seen quite clearly, in the two dossiers that I have presented to you, a link between a front page of The Daily Telegraph using the word “mutineers” and threats, including death threats, made to me and to other right hon. and hon. Members. Then last week, with the Daily Mail, again, specifically, you can see the link between words that are used and being called traitors, with comments like “Traitors get hanged” —or “hung”. There is lots of bad grammar. But this is serious stuff.

I commend the Home Secretary for her statement. She says that we have to call this out, and she is right. I am an old journalist as well as an old barrister. I believe in freedom of the press, but everybody has a responsibility not to incite abuse and death threats. Will the Home Secretary help us with any thoughts and plans that she might have as to how we get a more responsible press that understands its role and its public duty in doing the right thing by everybody?

Amber Rudd
My right hon. Friend speaks with such clarity from her personal experience. She has shared with me copies of some of the threats that she received, and they are truly appalling. I modestly pay tribute to her strength of character and ability to stand up and to continue to fight her case, for which I have enormous respect. Given that everybody knows the level of abuse that is taking place towards MPs and more widely in public life, everybody should consider very carefully the language that they use so that it does not incite the sort of activity of which we have seen too much, and to which there is such a high cost, not only to the individuals involved but, as has been stated, to the enthusiasm of other people to join us in public life. We need to think very carefully about the type of language that is used in order not to give succour to the type of violence that can follow.