As part of their Respectful Politics workstream, the Jo Cox Civility Commission has assessed abuse and intimidation in British politics and – more importantly – how to tackle it.

Abuse and intimidation of elected politicians is not a new problem but it is persisting and worsening. We can locate it offline and online, coming from the general public as well as politicians themselves, and at all levels – from local to national across the UK.

In 2023, ITV Wales found that 80% of Welsh MPs and Senedd Members have felt threatened since being in office, while 43% have received a death threat. In Scotland, Holyrood magazine revealed that 70% of Members of Scottish Parliament said they had feared for their safety since being elected, rising to almost 90% of female MSPs.

The impact of these dynamics is vast. Due to the inflammatory nature of some issues, a majority of MPs do not use social media to speak up on those issues. Especially women and those with minority ethnic background are disproportionately affected by abuse and intimidation. They are, consequently, less likely to go into politics. Of those people who have gone into politics, many are stating that abuse and intimidation had influenced their decision on whether to stand again.

A blue image with white text providing an example of abuse and intimidation in politics. Heidi Allen MP says: "Nobody in any job should have to put up with threats, aggressive emails, being shouted at in the street, sworn at on social media, nor have to install panic alarms at home."

The Commission has collated a variety of recommendations to tackle the issue. Specifically, they make recommendations in these areas: Coordination and Behaviour, Political Literacy, Social Media, Police and Security, Parliaments, Local Government, Elections, and Political Parties. They include:

  • implementation of a central unit to address abuse and intimidation of all elected politicians
  • impartial political and media literacy as mandatory part of the school curriculum
  • ongoing training must continue for all police about their responsibilities for dealing with threats against elected representatives
  • agreed minimum levels of protection measures for elected representatives must be defined and adopted
  • government should make any costs associated with candidate safety an exemption to election spending limits

Background

The Jo Cox Foundation makes meaningful change on issues that the late Jo Cox MP was passionate about. The organisation works in three areas: nurturing stronger communities, championing respect in politics and advocating for a fairer world. The report was collated as a result of submissions to an open call, interviews and discussions with relevant stakeholders and experts, conversations with security and justice department, and interviews with current and former politicians in UK.

Explore the report and its recommendations now »