The Jo Cox Civility Commission, launched today (Tuesday 28 February 2023) by The Jo Cox Foundation, seeks to drive change in British democracy by working to find implementable solutions to make life safer for political representatives and candidates for office.
In the last seven years, two MPs have been murdered in their constituency and many more elected politicians have faced physical assaults and threats.
This Commission has been established by The Jo Cox Foundation to raise awareness of the detrimental impact on individuals, democracy and society, of the current levels of abuse and intimidation in political life.
Co-chaired by Baroness Gabrielle Bertin and Lord Vernon Coaker, the Commission will:
Develop a robust and evidenced set of recommendations to tackle the issue.
Advocate for the adoption of these recommendations.
Raise awareness of the detrimental impact of abuse and intimidation in political life.
Deliver positive and lasting change to public life in the UK.
The need for this commission is abundantly clear.
In research published by the Fawcett Society this year, 82% of MPs said that online abuse and intimidation negatively impacted their feelings about being an MP. This figure was 93% among female MPs. But, unfortunately, it’s not solely online – some politicians have experienced destruction to their property, physical assault, stalking and sexual harassment – and the abuse doesn’t just come from the public, 16% of local councillors said that they had suffered abuse from fellow councillors.
Phase one of the commission, taking place until the summer of 2023, will gather evidence and solutions from experts and those with lived experience about how to address abuse and intimidation. Following this, recommendations will be made in a report, grouped according to sector and focusing on immediate, medium and long-term solutions.
Following the publication of the report, phase two will be focused on advocacy, with the Jo Cox Foundation and the commission Co-Chairs actively working with partners to push for the adoption of the recommendations identified. This phase will begin in late 2023 and continue throughout 2024.
Rt Hon Jacqui Smith, Chair of The Jo Cox Foundation said:
“In 2016, many of us hoped that the tragedy of Jo’s murder would be a wake-up call and abuse and intimidation in public life would be taken seriously and addressed. Almost seven years on, the problem appears to be worsening. MPs and local councillors alike frequently recount horrific threats and Sir David Amess’ tragic murder in 2021 highlights the ongoing risk of violence towards those who hold public office. At The Jo Cox Foundation we are determined to protect our democracy for future generations. Today we take a huge step forward in this work with the launch of the Jo Cox Civility Commission.”
Baroness Gabrielle Bertin, Co-Chair of the Jo Cox Civility Commission said:
“This Commission is vital. Great progress has been made on representation in UK politics in recent years, but only by tackling abuse and intimidation can we ensure this trend continues. Women still only make up 35% of MPs and yet they disproportionately receive abuse and intimidation. The level of abuse is even worse for female MPs from a minority ethnic background. Without urgent action, we will not only see more and more women step back from public life but we will also struggle to attract a diverse pipeline of politicians in future.“
Lord Vernon Coaker, Co-Chair of the Jo Cox Civility Commission said:
“The abuse and aggression towards politicians – whether in-person or online – has changed dramatically during my time in Parliament and has got measurably worse since Jo’s murder. We must recognise that attacks on elected politicians are attacks on our democracy. By finding and presenting tangible solutions through this Commission, we sincerely hope that this issue will be treated with the urgency that it deserves.”