Intimidation in Public Life — [Sir Gary Streeter in the Chair]

Part of Secondary School Standards: East Cleveland – in Westminster Hall at 3:23 pm on 21st May 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Conservative, Brigg and Goole 3:23 pm, 21st May 2019

I pay tribute to Dr Cameron. I have travelled with her on a trip about antisemitism and I know some of the things that she has gone through. It was a brave speech, and I hope she will not now be called in to explain that; such treatment is unacceptable. I also want to praise my hon. Friend Simon Hart for securing the debate. The most important point, I thought, was that MPs are not asking to be treated differently from anyone else. It is not a meeting of the national union of MPs. It is simply Members of Parliament asking to be treated in the same way as other professionals in their jobs.

I did not come into politics or this House with any soft view of what the job would involve. I cut my political teeth in Humberside politics. I was one of two Tories on Hull City Council and to be called “Tory scum” was fairly usual for me in my 10 years there. We all, to an extent, probably grow a thick skin as a result of such things, and I am not asking for special treatment. However, when I was elected in 2010 I did not expect a situation in which, because of death threats and various other incidents, including some public incidents, I would have restraining orders against people, my house would have panic alarms, and court cases would be brought against people who had done things to me. The police have generally been very good, but the sole reason for the collapse of the case against two people who were twice involved in incidents against me in the street, in Doncaster and Scunthorpe, was the failings of Humberside police, and I have not yet received a satisfactory response on that. Despite their racist and antisemitic abuse, those two individuals continue to walk around scot-free.

I never expected any of that to happen, and we must do something to try to address it, within parties but also more broadly. We need to consider whether the offences in place are acceptable, to protect not just ourselves as parliamentary candidates but those around us, including our families—my dad has been subjected to threats in the pub—our staff and, of course, our constituents who want to share their political views. As many colleagues have said, the issue is getting worse, not better. It almost does not matter what the subject is. I have a few examples of comments I received after speaking in debates. After a Holocaust Memorial Day debate I received the message:

“What a piece of utter Scum you are. Keep on lying and living a Lie”.

It was not just an email. It was followed up with telephone calls to both my constituency offices and my Westminster office, saying exactly the same thing: “Tell Andrew Percy he’s a piece of scum and he’s perpetuating a lie.”

I had another comment following the appearance of an article. A particularly insidious source of a lot of the abuse is the sites that purport to be news sites and that are effectively partisan fake news sites. Some have been set up to support particular political leaders and people spend much of their time abusing Members of Parliament of a particular party. An article went up on one of them. I do not read those things, and cannot remember which one it was. The immediate response came in, beginning “Double chinned hypocritical tosser”. It went on:

“Why the problem eating your own words? It’s not like your gormless flabby face can’t fit them.”

I look in the mirror and see a perfectly proportioned, good looking, handsome young man, but that does seem to be a theme.

Another message came as a result of a campaign when my local Labour party retweeted something about me. The first message that came in said:

“Wow nice to see a fat slop Tory twat voting to”— blah, blah, blah. Now, I can look at that and laugh about it, but actually it is personal abuse based on someone’s personal appearance.