On Thursday, Jo Cox, a 41-year-old Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen in the west of England, was brutally murdered in broad daylight after meeting with her constituents.
Cox had previously contacted police after receiving “malicious communications” and had been harassed for months.
A man had been arrested in connection with the investigation in March, but was released after he “subsequently accepted a police caution.”
Police were also set to increase Cox’s security, according to The Times, before she was shot and stabbed by a man who was reportedly shouting “Britain first.”
Cox is the first British MP to be murdered since 1990, but threats and aggressive behaviours against British MPs have, for many, become a daily part of the job.
Police and parliamentary authorities are now reviewing politicians’ security, according to the Financial Times, but the number of threats received by MPs in recent years is staggering and the abuse received by Cox is far from an isolated incident:
- On Thursday, a man was arrested by police after a death threat was made to Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter. The arrest follows an alleged slew of racist and homophobic abuse aimed at Bradshaw and his staff, according to The Mirror.
- Earlier this week, Natalie McGarry, MP for East Glasgow, received a slew of death and rape threats online after she returned from a trip to Turkey. Police advised her to step up security at her constituency office.
In May, Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, received 600 rape threats in one night after she launched a campaign against online bullying.
To see the attack of a pack on here check out my mentions 600 odd notifications talking about my rape in one night. I think twitter is dead
— Jess Phillips MP (@jessphillips) May 30, 2016
- At the end of May, Labour’s Diane Abbott, the SNP’s Hannah Bardell and former Liberal Democrat minister Jo Swinson also spoke out about the constant slew of abuse and rape threats that they and their staff get online.
- A man was arrested in December 2015 after threatening to kill MP for Bristol North West, Charlotte Leslie. The threats came after she voted in favour of airstrikes in Syria.
- Security for MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Neil Coyle, was reinforced after he received death threats over his support for air strikes in Syria.
- Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, received a huge amount of death and rape threats online and Peter Nunn who abused the MP online was eventually sent to prison for 18 weeks. Creasy had helped pass legislation to tackle stalking.
Simon Danczuk, MP for Rochdale, also reportedly received death threats on Twitter over his support for the Syria airstrikes and his staff received over 100 aggressive phone calls.
- In May, MP for Brigg and Goole, Andrew Percy left “aggressive and nasty” Twitter because of the constant abuse he was getting on the social media site. Percy was reportedly called fat, ugly, a liar, was compared to a Nazi and received anti-semitic abuse.
- Scottish MP for Orkney and Shetland, Alistair Carmichael, received death threats last December after he admitted being behind a leaked memo that said SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon wanted Cameron to win the last general election.
- In 2010, former MP Stephen Timms was badly injured when a student stabbed him multiple times in the stomach. The attack was politically motivated and linked to Timms’ vote to participate in the Iraq war.
- In 2000, MP Nigel Jones was injured and his assistant killed after being attacked by a man with a samurai sword.
A study carried out by the Home Office psychiatrists published in January 2016 showed that 80% of 120 MPs asked had been victims of intrusive or aggressive behaviour and 50% of those that been targeted in their own homes.
Although Cox was the first MP to be murdered in over 25 years, in the last 50 years, a total of six MPs have been murdered in the last 50 years:
- Walter Scott-Elliot, MP for Accrington, was murdered by his butler in 1977.
- Airey Neave, MP for Abingdon, was murdered by the Irish National Liberation Army in 1979.
- Robert Bradford, MP for South Belfast, was murdered by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1981.
- Sir Anthony Berry, MP for Enfield Southgate, was murdered by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1984.
- Ian Gow, MP for Eastbourne, was murdered by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1990.
MPs are often very vulnerable to attacks as they meet their constituents in public places on a regular basis. Those meetings normally do not benefit of any extra security. BBC journalist Nick Robinson, in a tribute to Cox, tried to remind constituents of the position MPs put themselves in when they are elected:
She was vulnerable to attack because she was, like so many MPs, available to anyone who wanted to see her with any grievance.
Her death is a reminder that our elected representatives, who are so often demonised for living separate lives from the rest of us, actually all too often live in our communities, in our streets worrying about the same things that we do. Unlike us, though, they open themselves up not to just to criticism and abuse but to assault by those who disagree with them.
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