The aim of this work has been to find implementable solutions that make a difference to the issue of abuse and intimidation of elected politicians. Throughout our work with stakeholders, our focus has been on working collaboratively to highlight the areas where change is both necessary and possible. Our recommendations are deliberately ambitious – we want them to be able to address the root causes of the issue, as well as to bring more immediate solutions to improve the situation for those politicians who currently serve. This page outlines our recommendations, which fall under eight categories.
Coordination and behaviour
- Government should implement and resource a central unit to address abuse and intimidation of all elected politicians. This would include coordinating existing initiatives, resourcing new solutions, and facilitating information sharing between agencies. This unit should be responsible for better measurements and analysis of the problem, and should be expected to produce an annual report on the scale of the problem, actions taken, and impact.
- All elected representatives, and especially those in leadership roles, should model good behaviour.
- Government should implement significant awareness campaigns for the general public aimed at increasing understanding of the role of elected representatives and promoting civility.
- All councillors and parliamentarians should regularly visit education institutions in their constituencies, raising awareness of their roles.
- Impartial political and media literacy should be made a mandatory part of the school curriculum, including addressing how to deal with information sources and misinformation. Teachers should be adequately trained to deliver this.
Social media and media
- The specific issue of abuse and intimidation of elected politicians must be considered when implementing the Online Safety Act. The regulator Ofcom must actively seek the advice of civil society organisations with expertise in this area, and ensure regular, specific training.
- Social media companies should acknowledge the democratic significance of local politicians and provide better and faster routes for councillors reporting abuse and misinformation online. This supports the call made by the Local Government Association in their Debate Not Hate publication.
Police and security
- Parliamentarians, staff and families must receive clear and specific briefings, including:
- Clear guidelines about what communications received by parliamentarians should be reported to police.
- Clear guidance about which bodies are responsible for which aspects of security and a clear explanation about what security arrangements are available.
- Clear guidance about which laws exist to counter abuse of elected representatives.
- Guidance should be developed for local councillors about what communications should be reported to the police, and the mechanism for doing this. This should include clear guidance about which laws exist to counter abuse of elected representatives.
- On-going training must continue for all police about their responsibilities for dealing with threats against elected representatives. This should include training in the following areas:
- Equalities including particular vulnerabilities related to misogyny and other protected characteristics.
- The roles and responsibilities of different levels of government.
- Cross-cutting nature of abuse including hate crime.
- New legislation, including the Election Act 2022 and the Online Safety Act 2023.
- Agreed minimum levels of protection measures for elected representatives must be defined. Elected representatives must then adopt the minimum level.
- Elected politicians should report all abuse (threshold confirmed by police) so an understanding of the level of threat is built up in police systems. Elected politicians should follow guidance from the police and the Crown Prosecution Service about when to pursue prosecution.
- There must be dedicated resources in each local police force to ensure an appropriate, consistent response to support elected representatives across the country. This would enable:
- Increasing the remit of the Single Point of Contact in each police force to include local elected representatives.
- Streamlining implementation of Operation Bridger and enforcement of the Single Point of Contact system.
- Increased capacity for police forces to provide home and venue (surgeries) risk assessments for both MPs and local government elected representatives and facilitate additional security measures if necessary.
- Information sharing must be improved between different forces through the Operation Bridger Network and across nations and regions.
(Westminster and devolved administrations)
- Parliamentarians should be able to claim for the costs associated with addressing abuse and intimidation, including:
- Costs associated with wellbeing measures for staff who process/ experience abuse.
- The swift implementation of security measures advised by Operation Bridger.
- Written resources should be developed for the families of elected representatives about dealing with abuse. This should include explanations of escalation procedures and clarification of points of contact.
- Mandatory, properly resourced training should be developed for both elected representatives and their staff on preventing and addressing abuse. This should include active bystander training, situational awareness, and training around safe social media use.
- Local authorities should improve risk planning for abuse at council meetings and other events, ensuring high risk events are properly resourced with trained security.
- Police should be involved where appropriate and in particular when there is a risk to democratic engagement.
- The opportunity should exist for council meetings to take place online in instances when there are specific risks of physical abuse to councillors.
- Councils should pass motions affirming principles to address abuse and model good behaviour, from the Local Government Association’s Debate Not Hate toolkit or the National Association of Local Councils’ (NALC) Civility and Respect Project.
- Local authorities should ensure security and wellbeing resources are available to councillors. These should be clearly signposted, and there should be a dedicated point of contact for the escalation of any issues.
- Government should make any costs associated with candidate safety an exemption to election spending limits.
- The Electoral Commission should expand its guidance for candidates about use of social media during the election period, with a specific focus on upholding public confidence in the democratic process.
- Political parties should rigorously screen candidates during the candidate selection process.
- Political parties should require candidates to sign up to an election code of conduct in line with The Jo Cox Foundation’s Civility Pledge.
- Social media companies should offer additional support for candidates at election times about how to protect themselves on the platform and report abuse. Advice should also be available to the general public around misinformation that might interfere with the democratic process.
- Political parties must consistently enforce their existing codes of conduct, with relevant sanctions when the code is not adhered to.
- Mandatory civility and equalities training should be implemented for all candidates.
- Political parties should review how they offer legal support to candidates or elected officials where civil action is more appropriate than criminal action.