'Parties must do more to prepare candidates for abuse'

Political parties must do more to prepare candidates for the ruthless nature of campaigning, a cross-party group has recommended.

A Jewish convert candidate was called "Zionist scum", an Indian-origin candidate was dubbed a p****, and another saw her campaign posters daubed with swastikas during the recent general election.

Racism and bigotry have been "on the rise" at times since the 2015 general election, the informal parliamentary inquiry into electoral conduct found.

It highlighted a number of cases of abuse during the latest campaign, including reports that:

  • Tory Sheryll Murray was left "sickened" when her posters were daubed with swastikas.

  • Tory former minister Andrew Percy, a convert to Judaism, had been called "Zionist scum".

  • Ameet Jogia, an Indian-origin Tory candidate who stood against Labour's Barry Gardiner in Brent North, found a voting booth scrawled with: "Vote Labour Barry, not Jogia. Keep p**** out of politics".

Jeremy Corbyn Credit: PA

The report concluded: "More could and should be done by political parties to prepare candidates for the ruthless nature of campaigning. This might include personal safety sessions and briefings from experienced campaigners."

Labour and the Conservatives have both accused the other of failing to act to stamp out abuse by their members and activists.

Jeremy Corbyn has faced repeated criticism that he has failed to explicitly condemn attacks made by his supporters.

Conservative MP Simon Hart has secured a debate in Westminster Hall on Wednesday afternoon on the abuse and intimidation of candidates and the public in UK elections.

He told the Daily Mail: "Rather than just putting out feeble messages online saying you condemn all this, Jeremy Corbyn needs to actually do something about it.

"Mr Corbyn and the leaders of Momentum need when there is even the faintest whiff of this stuff to say, 'You are not welcome in our party or to campaign on our behalf and wear the Labour badge if this is how you're going to behave'."

Labour accused the Conservative party of carrying out vitriolic personal attacks on election candidates on an industrial scale during the election.

Zac Goldsmith was accused of a 'racially discriminatory' campaign Credit: PA

Tories ran a nasty campaign full of smears and untruths about opponents, particularly shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, according to the Opposition.

Millions of pounds were spent on attack adverts on social media in a campaign that could deter future parliamentary hopefuls from entering politics, Labour said.

It also highlighted criticism of the "racially discriminatory" unsuccessful bid made by Tory Zac Goldsmith to become London mayor against Sadiq Khan as well as the suspension of Anne Marie Morris from the Tory party over the use of racist language.

In a letter to Conservative party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin, counterpart Ian Lavery and Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement, called for a zero-tolerance approach to abuse.

Anne Marie Morris was suspended Credit: PA

They wrote: "The Conservatives ran a negative, nasty campaign, propagating personal attacks, smears and untruths, particularly aimed at one of the most prominent women MPs, and indeed the first black woman MP, Diane Abbott.

"Such attacks on politicians, the consequent intimidating and abusive language and threats of violence towards them online, deter many people from entering politics.

"Parties and politicians have a responsibility to set an example, by treating others with dignity and respect, including those with whom we strongly disagree. The Conservative Party has instead promoted personal attacks as a core component of its national campaign."

They claimed Labour "fought a positive, hopeful campaign" and insisted that all its MPs ran campaigns based on our policies rather than personal attacks.