The Jo Cox Civility Commission, run by The Jo Cox Foundation to find solutions to tackle abuse and intimidation in politics, is Co-Chaired by two members of the House of Lords: Baroness Gabrielle Bertin (Conservative) and Lord Vernon Coaker (Labour).
Baroness Bertin was David Cameron’s Press Secretary until 2014 and then became Downing Street’s Director of External Relations. She became a Life Peer in 2016. Her focus in the House of Lords is on domestic abuse, sexual violence, prison reform and disability inclusion. She also introduced the Stalking Protection Order Bill, giving police greater powers to help victims of stalking.
Lord Coaker was the Labour MP for Gedling from 1997-2019. He served in government as Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Security (2008-2009) and Minister of State for Schools and Learning from (2009-2010). In opposition, he was Shadow Secretary of State for Defence (2013-2015) and Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from (2011-2013, 2015-2016). He became a life peer in 2021.
We launched the Jo Cox Civility Commission in February with the aim of finding practical recommendations to stamp out the rising abuse and intimidation that we’re seeing in our politics. We are now finalising the Commission’s recommendations and preparing to launch the report early in 2024. After the launch, we’ll begin the most crucial stage of the Commission, in which we campaign for the recommendations to be adopted – not just by the UK government, but also by the cross-sector bodies and individuals that have a role to play in tackling this problem.
Due to the increased levels of abuse and intimidation in politics in recent years, it’s likely we’ll come up against claims that ‘nothing can be done’ and ‘it’s always been like this’. Yet from the pragmatic and targeted recommendations that we have been working on, we know that these claims are false, and we also believe that it’s false to claim that ‘it’s always been like this’. Evidence suggests that the problem of abuse and intimidation towards elected representatives is escalating.
In recent years, we have seen the shocking murders of Jo Cox MP and Sir David Amess MP while they were conducting constituency work. This year, MPs – including Mhairi Black and Stuart Anderson – have cited abuse as a factor in their decision to stand down at the next election.
Between media attention, social media abuse, threats, constant travel, and the murders of two MPs, my loved ones have been in a constant state of anxiety for my health and safety.Mhairi Black MP
The way people engage with politics has changed considerably in the past 20 years, and we are seeing how issues such as the spread of misinformation online and a lack of political literacy are inflaming abuse and intimidation towards elected representatives. While social media is by no means the only problem, it has become an avenue for abuse that simply didn’t exist 20 years ago.
Even those of us who are not MPs are in many cases altering our behaviour in an attempt to prevent abuse – by posting less online, or refraining from speaking about topics that attract high volumes of abuse. We have been appalled by the treatment so many MPs on all sides of the House have had to put up with, including faeces posted through the letterbox, credible death and rape threats, and demeaning misogynistic comments. Many people who would be invaluable in politics are categoric that they wouldn’t stand for public office because of this. That needs to change.
The need for this landmark Commission is more apparent than ever. Will you support our campaigning this Giving Tuesday?
Taking place the week after Black Friday, Giving Tuesday is the global day of giving, in which people around the world are encouraged to donate to a good cause.
By donating to The Jo Cox Foundation today, you’ll be powering our campaigning to stamp out abuse and intimidation in UK politics.
With your help, we can tackle this growing threat and protect democracy for future generations.
Lord Vernon Coaker and Baroness Gabrielle Bertin