Loughborough MP's Commons Plea Prompts Call To Deal With Online Abuse

5 March 2019, 09:25 | Updated: 5 March 2019, 09:27

Nicky Morgan - MP for Loughborough

Speaker John Bercow has urged police to bring Brexit bigots to book.

Describing threats to MPs as "a burgeoning phenomenon", Mr Bercow said allowing intimidation to continue would be the "death of democracy".

The Speaker was responding to a point of order brought by Tory MP Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) in the Commons, highlighting a new documentary investigating online abuse.

She said: "This is systematic intimidation and influencing of the votes that MPs cast in this House.

"Next week we expect to have further key Brexit votes.

"Will you help us ensure this threat both to our democracy as well as to our safety is to be taken seriously and is to be challenged at all times?"

Mr Bercow assured Ms Morgan he would do "everything in my power" to "uphold and champion" the duty of MPs who were being threatened to "do what is right for the country".

Decrying those who hold "an extreme view" over and above a political difference of opinion, he said there were some who "simply do not seem able to imagine that anyone can legitimately hold a view that diverges from their own".

He said: "What seems to have happened is people who violently disapprove of the opinion of an MP think it's somehow proper to write in quite the most horrific and obnoxious terms, to post blogs on the matter, to Tweet in the most offensive terms, and either in person to threaten or worse still to inflict violence.

"With the help of the House authorities, conscientious reporting to the police and, above all, effective action from the police two things are obviously necessary.

"First, that such people should be brought to book and made to realise that that behaviour is not acceptable and, second, that MPs as a result should feel that proper safety net around them to which frankly anybody is entitled."

Mr Bercow called on MPs "not currently in the line of fire" to take responsibility for protecting those who are, which he said was their democratic duty.

He said: "It has to be made clear to the bigots - and they are bigots, there is really no other way to describe it - it needs to be made clear to the bigots that their behaviour is not only objectionable, bullying, misogynistic and utterly immoral, it will fail.

"If the House of Commons cannot do what it thinks is right that would be the death of democracy.

"None of us in this House is going to allow the bigoted extremists... to win - it simply must not, cannot and will not happen."

The Speaker also called out the misogynistic element of the abuse, flagging up how most of the threats were being directed at female MPs and journalists.

He said: "The importance of free expression in voice and vote can hardly be overstated, just as it is impossible to overstate the sinister character of the threats posed to journalists to boot.

"It's true that men as well as women have been threatened but I think it is legitimate and proper to point out... that women have been disproportionately targeted by chauvinistic and misogynistic abusers and this is intolerable."