Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Prime Minister's Update

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:44 pm on 25th September 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee 6:44 pm, 25th September 2019

I have heard what the right hon. Lady has said, and I treat it with the greatest possible respect. I am well aware of, and personally familiar with, the fact of the abuse and threats to which she has been subject over a long period. I deprecate in the strongest and most uncompromising terms those threats to her and to other Members. I have received many myself as a matter of fact—I am not complaining about that; I am simply saying that I empathise with her because I have been on the receiving end of many such communications myself. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to weigh his or her words and to try to make the arguments in which we believe with care and, if possible, with eloquence, and even, from time to time, with humour, but in terms that demonstrate respect for those who hold a point of view that differs from our own. I have a feeling that this is a point to which Members will return in days to come.

I cannot overstate the frequency with which I have been informed over the past year or so by Members on both sides of the House, and on both sides of the Brexit argument, of the fact and persistence of threats that they have received. I have previously said very publicly that, in relation to media outlets which have prominently depicted Members as though they were public enemies for differing from the vantage point of those media outlets, that cannot be right. That cannot be right. I have no desire to escalate the tensions and every desire to try to use words that are pacifying rather than inflammatory.

In relation to the Leader of the House, let me say that I am well aware that offensive abuse has been directed at members of his family, and that has been intimidating, and that is wrong. It is not possibly wrong or conceivably wrong or in a certain situation wrong. That is wrong—end of subject—and so is the abuse and threats that other Members have received. The reality of the matter—and I say this with all the force and insistence at my command without fear of contradiction—is that female Members and Members of our ethnic minority communities have been disproportionately subject to that abuse and those threats. It requires nobody to seek to contradict it, because that is the fact. I know it, and the right hon. Lady knows it. We have to rise up against it and to resist it, and everybody has a part to play, including the holders of very high offices.