Cost of living crisis: UK's toxic political atmosphere, fuelled by social media and some MPs, is damaging efforts to tackle this national emergency – Ian Murray
and live on Freeview channel 276
Conservative sleaze has become endemic, with Gavin Williamson resigning in disgrace over alleged bullying just two weeks after being appointed a minister by the new PM.
Williamson stands accused of telling a senior civil servant to “slit your throat” amongst other things. I don’t believe the PM didn’t know about this before appointing him. Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary who’s adopted Nigel Farage’s style of politics, has referred to asylum seekers entering the UK as an “invasion”.
In Scotland, SNP MSP James Dornan continues to spend time publicly insulting journalists and encouraging online pile-ons, even after he was denounced for accusing the respected BBC reporter Sarah Smith of “imaginary woes” after she spoke out about the abuse she suffered while doing her job.
The toxicity in our politics is turning people away from public service – and eroding trust in politics at a time when it is needed most. Yesterday, the BBC revealed the extraordinary level of online abuse aimed at politicians from all parties. More than 3,000 offensive tweets are sent to MPs every single day and MPs aren’t alone in this.
I know many of my colleagues, from all parties, are scarred by the horrific abuse. Much of the hatred is directed towards women, with my friend Jess Phillips MP often facing a torrent of sickening comments, while the SNP’s Joanna Cherry is also a regular target of the hate mob. This week, Jess called for “genuine criminal and financial sanctions" for companies that fail to moderate online abuse.
Given the recent takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk, many people are concerned that toxicity levels could increase. It’s fair to say that SNP MP Pete Wishart and I don’t see eye-to-eye all the time, but he’s right to warn that Musk is making Twitter a “home for the intolerant and the nasty”.
Thankfully, the ‘block’ option is still available on the platform. I had cause to use it extensively last week following a debate on the SNPs plan for independence in Parliament.
I would much rather have spent my time in parliament addressing things that really matter like the cost-of-living crisis, but it was the SNP’s choice of topic. A sad, but not surprising, use of parliamentary time. Temperatures certainly rose on all sides of the Chamber, although nothing like the blazing hot levels on Twitter and Facebook where unacceptable abuse spread like wildfire.
The coming months are going to be the hardest that many households have ever faced. As I said in that debate, a family came to my surgery last month to say their fixed-rate mortgage of 1.79 per cent was expiring. Given the increases in interest rates, they were expecting to pay and had budgeted for 3.5 per cent, but they were quoted more than 6.5 per cent and simply cannot afford it.
This week, nurses voted for strike action in the last resort for a profession that is overworked and undervalued. The decisions made by politicians are vital as we navigate this national emergency. We need to remove the level of toxicity in politics so that we can focus on supporting everyone through the challenging times ahead.
Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South