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I once hid from constituent and called police but we can’t let the bullies win

The brutal murder of Sir David Amess has been declared an act of terrorism.

But his tragic death has prompted us all to think about the safety of people in public life and the way debate is conducted in our society. I am acutely aware from my own personal experience of the threats to the safety of MPs and our staff.

In 2017 Amnesty International carried out a survey of online abuse of female MPs and found that Diane Abbott received the most abuse. I was second.

Since then the abuse has got worse. On one occasion I required a police escort at my constituency surgery because of a death threat considered credible.

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On another occasion a constituent behaved in such a menacing and threatening manner I and my office manager were in fear of our lives.

We were so terrified that after he left we pushed all the furniture against the door of the room in the suburban library where my surgery was being held while we waited for the police to arrive.

Subsequently we had to go to court to give evidence against him. He was convicted. Earlier this year another man was convicted after he threatened me with sexual violence.

Shockingly he was a fellow member of the SNP who turned out to have a previous conviction for carrying a knife yet no one in my party has publicly condemned him.

There have been many fine words from political leaders since the brutal killing of Sir David – but we need deeds, not words.

Two murders in the space of just over five years is not only unacceptable, it’s terrifying.

One of the good things about Scottish and British politics is the accessibility of our parliamentarians to their constituents.

It would be awful to lose this but we do need to consider whether MPs can continue to meet total strangers at vulnerable locations such as libraries and church halls.

During the height of the pandemic we took our surgeries online or by phone. We may need to return to doing this while Parliament and the police look at what should happen in the long term.

Our public discourse also needs to change. We need to take all threats against people in public life seriously, even if made against those with whom we disagree.

Politicians in particular must show leadership and avoid the demonising and targeting of other politicians.

Conservative MP Sir David Amess

Some politicians, public bodies and institutions have been guilty of reinforcing and amplifying disturbing levels of intolerance. My experience has been that a category of women in our public life has been created who can be bullied, intimidated and threatened with impunity.

Concerted efforts are being made to remove us from public life simply for our belief in the importance of biological sex and the importance of preserving the sex-based protections which the Equality Act affords women and the same sex attracted.

Politicians like myself, Joan McAlpine and Rosie Duffield have been monstered without an official word said in our defence.

The same thing is happening in our universities where masked demonstrators threaten and abuse respected feminist academics like Professor Kathleen Stock.

Ultimately, the aim is to silence us, wear us down and make our public lives so intolerable that we will leave our jobs.

I’m very lucky to have overwhelming levels of support but the unrelenting attacks do take their toll.

Recently I contemplated leaving elected politics due to the level of abuse and threats but I’ve decided to stay and fight my corner.

We must not let the bullies win. Our democracy is at stake.



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