Diane Abbott reveals daily racist threats as MPs debate abuse they suffer

Diane Abbott speaks during the debate. Credit: Houses of Parliament

Diane Abbott has told of the vile racist and sexist abuse she receives, saying she is daily branded a "n*****" online, in comments made during a Westminster Hall debate on the intimidation and abuse of candidates in elections.

While the shadow home secretary said the intensity of abuse did increase during election campaigns, it was something she and other MP's suffered year-round.

In an impassioned speech, the 63-year-old revealed the extent of the "mindless abuse" she has received in the form of rape and death threats, as well as being labelled a "ugly, fat, black, b**** and a n*****".

Ms Abbott told the debate: "We are talking about mindless abuse and in my case the mindless abuse has been characteristically racist and sexist.

"And just to outline I've had death threats, I've had people tweeting that I should be hung if 'they could find a tree big enough to take the fat b****'s weight'.

"There was an EDL affiliated Twitter account #BurnDianeAbbott, I've had rape threats, described as a pathetic, useless fat black, piece of s***, ugly fat black b**** and n*****.

"N***** over and over again."

Ms Abbott said one of her members of staff said the "most surprising thing" about working for her was how often she "has to read the word n*****" in emails, on Twitter and Facebook.

The Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP said that during her 30-year career as a politician, she had seen abuse increase due to the "use of online" which had "turbocharged abuse".

Ms Abbott explained: "I think the rise in the use of online has turbocharged abuse because 30 years ago, when I first became an MP, if you wanted to attack an MP you had to write a letter, usually in green ink, you had to put it in an envelope, you had to put a stamp on it and you had to walk to the post box.

"Now they press a button and you read vile abuse which 30 years ago people would have been frightened to even write down...

"People would not come up to me and attack me for being a n****** in public, but they'll do it online... this isn't once a week, this is everyday."

She said the abuse was "much worse" for women but acknowledged that male politicians also suffered.

Tory MP Simon Hart opened the debate and said he hoped the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox last year - who "paid the ultimate price for this kind of stuff" - had "sent a message" that "people would listen to".

He continued: "But it seems one year on that the problem is every bit as bad as it was back then, and unless we get joined up cooperative leadership from the Government, which I hope we'll hear now, and of course from the opposition parties, all of them, and the groups who support them, then all of the extraordinary work that has been done in Jo Cox's memory will have been wasted."

Following the wave of intimidation during the General Election campaign an investigation into the abuse of parliamentary candidates is being launched.

Labour and the Conservatives have both accused the other of failing to act to stamp out abuse by their members and activists after reports of racism, anti-Semitism and sexism, but during the debate, most MPs conceded that abuse was something suffered on both sides of the political divide.

Theresa May has asked the Committee on Standards in Public Life to conduct a review into the problem.

The probe will assess the current protections in place and report back to the Prime Minister with recommendations on ways to tackle abuse in the future.

Mrs May said: "I have been horrified by stories from colleagues about the scale and nature of the intimidation, bullying and harassment they suffered during the general election campaign.

"Robust debate is a vital part of our democracy, but there can be no place for the shocking threats and abuse we have seen in recent months.

"We must all work together to banish this behaviour, and I would urge MPs and candidates from all parties to report their experiences to this review so we get the fullest possible picture - and can take the action required to stamp it out."

Also speaking during the debate was Tory MP Andrew Percy who added he had been receiving death threats for a number of years, but the difference at the June election was how it was "politically motivated".

Labour's Paula Sherriff added she "can't remember a single day" without being abused since becoming an MP in 2015, with the last election the "most brutal".

She said the abuse has included death threats and a picture of her "mocked up as a used sanitary towel" - an apparent attack on her campaigning to scrap the so-called "tampon tax".