Jo was renowned for her ability to forge cross-party relationships and to work collaboratively with those of opposing political views. Her murder is a tragic and unavoidable reminder of the dangers of a divisive public life and discourse.
Jo’s murder in 2016 is a tragic and unavoidable reminder of the dangers of a divisive public life and discourse.
We work to tackle all forms of abuse and intimidation against people in political life. We understand that change must begin at the highest levels and that politicians should set an example with their discourse. This is why we created the Joint Statement on Political Conduct, which outlines the minimum standards of behaviour expected from all political party members. The Joint Standard has been signed by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, The Green Party of England and Wales, Plaid Cymru and the SNP.
We are raising awareness of the impact abuse and intimidation is having on all people in political life while highlighting that this abuse disproportionately affects women, minority ethnic people and people with disabilities. Along with other organisations, we are advocating for the government, police forces and social media companies to do more to tackle abuse and intimidation at its core.
The Scale of The Issue
A clear trend that is present throughout the research is that the abuse and intimidation faced by elected representatives is measurably worse compared to when Jo was murdered. The number of alleged crimes MP reported to the police more than doubled between 2017 and 2018 and research shows that our elected representatives are less safe than they were a decade ago.
Violence Against Women in Politics
Though progress has been made in recent years, the House of Commons still does not yet reflect the country it represents. Women make up 51% of the UK adult population but only 34% of MPs and 21% of cabinet members. Evidence has shown that abuse and intimidation at all levels disproportionately impacts women.
- Harassment forces female candidates to avoid activities such as canvassing and political rallies which reduces their chances of being elected.
- Women are significantly more likely to be stalked, sexually harassed and threatened with sexual assault than their male counterparts
- Nearly all female MPs in the UK have received online or in-person abuse and intimidation.
Abuse against groups underrepresented in parliament
10% of MPs are Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic and fewer than 1% of MPs have a self-declared disability, yet evidence has shown that abuse disproportionately impacts these underrepresented groups in parliament. Black and Asian women MPs receive 35% more abusive tweets than white women MPs. Black local councillors and local councillors with disabilities are significantly more likely to be targeted with online abuse.
Abuse at all levels of politics
- Nearly half of local councillors have experienced abuse.
- 70% of Members of Scottish Parliaments said they had feared for their safety since being elected. (almost 90% Female MSPs)
Intimidation and abuse continues to be experienced by individuals across public life, from all groups and across the political spectrum. Addressing this intimidatory, bullying and abusive culture matters. It matters for the diversity of our public life, it matters for the way in which the public can engage with representative democracy, and it matters for the freedom to discuss and debate issues and interests.
Standing up to Hate Online
The widespread use of social media has been the most significant factor accelerating and enabling intimidatory behaviour in recent years. Although social media helps to promote widespread access to ideas and engagement in debate, it also creates an intensely hostile online environment. Since Jo’s murder, the police have received over 600 reports of malicious communications from MPs, and many more go unreported.
In 2018, the Intimidation in Public Life report published by the Committee on Standards in Public Life found that…
- 56% of candidates surveyed are concerned about abuse and intimidation, and 31% say they are fearful
- No female MP who was active on Twitter has been free from online intimidation
- Black and Asian women MPs – despite representing only 11% of all women in Westminster – received 35% more abusive tweets than white women MPs