The level of online hate members of the UK Parliament face is “out of control”, Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has warned, in the wake of the murder of conservative lawmaker Sir David Amess.
Speaking on Monday to Sky News, Raab called for a clampdown on the abuse thrown at UK politicians: “I’m a free-speech man. I want to defend that to my dying days. But, at the same time, I think the amount of abuse, the vilification directed at MPs – particularly female MPs – has got to stop.”
The elephant in the room in all this is that the amount of online hate we all get is out of control.
Commenting on the right to anonymity online, the justice secretary said there was “a case” for removing it, as internet users should not be able to “abuse their position on social media from a veil of anonymity”.
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He said the risk of MPs falling victim to attacks had increased since he’d assumed his role as a member of Parliament in 2010. He blamed for that the “ebbing trust” the public have had in politicians since the expenses scandal of 2009, which exposed the unjustified claims that had been made by members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in previous years.
Raab’s remarks were made in response to the death of Tory MP Sir David Amess, who was fatally stabbed as he held a constituency meeting in a Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea last Friday. The Metropolitan Police later that day officially declared his murder to be a terrorist incident with potential links to Islamist extremism.
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Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Saturday that protective measures for MPs attending meetings with their voters would be reviewed in the light of Amess’ death. She said she was also considering a ban on anonymous social media accounts, as many MPs were suffering “appalling” cyber-abuse.
Amess’ fatal stabbing adds to the grim list of assaults on British lawmakers over the years. Jo Cox, an MP for the opposition Labour Party, was murdered by a right-wing extremist in 2016, while Stephen Timms, a minister in Tony Blair’s government, survived a knife attack during a constituency meeting in East London in 2010.
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