Despite David Amess's murder, 'Tory scum' jibes are unlikely to stop given nationalists' and left-wingers' fondness for demonising opponents – John McLellan
Only five days after the murder of Conservative MP Sir David Amess led to calls for a gentler, more respectful way of doing politics, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove needed protection from a baying mob of anti-vaxxers bellowing obscenities.
That the scenes were dreadful is beyond debate; the vilest abuse being shouted at a man going about his lawful business and abuse of the police for not arresting him for whatever it was they were screaming.
But you won’t have to go far in Scotland to find people who’d agree with the sentiments, even if their reasons differ, and the murder of Sir David will make no difference.
Much has been made of Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner setting the worst possible example by calling Conservatives “scum” in a conference speech to activists, then tweeting her sympathies for Sir David after the attack, as if no-one would make the comparison.
I’m not sure a direct link can be made between yah-boo politics and deranged attacks, no matter how coldly planned, and reports of the assassin’s calm demeanour as he awaited arrest suggests a level of calculation.
But as after the murder of Jo Cox five years ago, one was seen as a product of the other and resulted in calls for elected members to reflect on their tone; that all elected politicians are in it together, we all want the same thing but by different means, that sort of thing.
For many representatives that’s certainly the case, but there are plenty left-wingers and nationalists in the “never kissed a Tory” camp for whom demonisation is just another tactic. Having “Tory scum” shouted at us on too many occasions by too many different people means we don’t brush it off as one or two extremists but an expression of genuine belief by a sizeable number.
I don’t believe for one minute that things will change because one good man died, any more than the deaths of Ian Gow or Airey Neave persuaded some still active commentators that violence was no way to achieve political change.
And it’s not as if Angela Rayner remembered the murder of Jo Cox and the reaction of Ms Cox’s friend and colleague Andrew Mitchell MP when she vented her spleen to impress the faithful with her zeal.
It’s apparently fine to appear on platforms where supporters wave “Tory Scum Out” banners, to accuse Conservatives of being responsible for killing poor people and of insensitivity to rape, as we have been during Edinburgh Council meetings, and to make baseless accusations of bigotry behind the safety of closed doors.
So full of their self-righteousness, some Labour, SNP and Green representatives feel entitled to snarl their loathing for us, only to howl how appalled, outraged and offended they are when a robust response is the result.
The democratic right to protest cannot be denied, but leaders can’t expect the bile to be turned on and off like a tap according to circumstance. Whether it’s in party receptions, on demonstrations, in debates or wherever, the hatred is all too obvious.
I’ve seen too many elected representatives spit “Toaries” out in their speeches with undisguised contempt to dismiss it as just for the cameras or the activists. Well, boo-hoo me, but respect only on their terms is no respect at all.