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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Party leaders need to stamp on rising tide of intolerance and threats in politics

The Sun, which it has to be said is no friend of the Labour Party reports that the BBC has hired bodyguards to protect political editor Laura Kuenssberg at the Labour conference. They add that this unprecedented action has been taken after a stream of online threats and abuse against the 40-year-old journalist:

Ms Kuenssberg has been targeted by sexist trolls who claim she is biased against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The Beeb is insisting she must have personal protection both inside and out of the secure zone at the four-day Brighton rally.

An insider said: “We take the safety of our staff extremely seriously. Laura is a well-known public figure. She and her team will be covering events with big crowds where there can be hostility, so we want to ensure adequate precautions are taken.”

The hatred aimed at Ms Kuenssberg first erupted 18 months ago over her reporting of a botched reshuffle by the Labour leader.

She was bombarded with abuse again when she reported the party’s dismal showing in last year’s local elections.

Despite the Sun's obvious dislike of Jeremy and the Labour Party I have no reason to doubt the veracity of this story. I have seen reports of such threats elsewhere and it is a fact that in June more than 35,000 signed an online petition calling for her to be sacked before it was removed by campaign group 38 degrees over “sexist and hateful” abuse.

The question is why the leadership in all parties do not speak out against this sort of abuse, threaten its proponents with disciplinary proceedings and expulsion and show their clear backing for a journalist, who it has to be said is most probably also a member of a trade union, and who is only doing her job.

No politician likes critical reporting, but if we did not have the sort of scrutiny which Laura Kuenssberg and her colleagues in all media outlets provide then our democracy would be poorer and we would be halfway to a dictatorship.

I have always taken the view that if I am getting unfavourable coverage then it is my fault and I have looked to correct that. If I think that a journalist is not being objective or has failed to carry out due diligence in their reporting I will tell them in a polite and respectful manner. I have only had to do that two or three times in the thirty odd years I have been an elected politician.

What is unacceptable is on-line abuse and threats, misogyny, misandry and other intolerant behaviour towards any journalist for carrying out the role they have been assigned. The fact that body guards have had to be deployed this week in Brighton is shocking. The leadership needs to intervene.
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