'I've had threats of shootings and rape' Welsh politicians share experiences of abuse

Three Welsh politicians have opened up about their experiences of abuse, including receiving threats of shootings, rape and death.

Conservative MP Fay Jones, Labour MS Jack Sargeant and Plaid Cymru MS Leanne Wood told ITV News about cases of serious abuse that, in some circumstances, forced them to go to the police.

It comes amid a call for all UK parties to sign up to a civility pledge, launched by The Jo Cox Foundation, which aims to reduce intimidation and abuse within politics.

The foundation - which was set up after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox - has set out the minimum standards of behaviour that all party members should aspire to uphold.

Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats have all pledged their support.

Former Home Secretary and foundation chair Jacqui Smith said she is hopeful Labour and the Conservatives will also sign up.

"There should be a statement of the sort of behaviour that we expect from political parties and their members," she said.

"I'm pleased to say that having produced that, and launching it at the end of last year, several political parties have already signed up.

"We're still working on Labour and the Conservatives but we're hopeful they'll be signing up soon."

Former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said she has received threats of shootings and rape. Credit: PA Images
  • "I've had threats of shootings, of rape"

Former Plaid Cymru leader and MS for Rhondda Leanne Wood said she receives regular abuse, but particularly when talking about certain topics.

She explained: "Talking about things like immigration, Black Lives Matter, Welsh constitutional issues like independence or issues around the Welsh language, standing up for any kind of underdogs or women and feminism or anti-fascism - those are the kind of topics which I do tend to talk about quite a lot and will trigger those sorts of reactions."

She added that she has had to report some of the most serious cases of abuse to the police.

"Serious abuse where there are threats - I’ve had threats of shootings, of rape - I’ve taken those to the police.

Ms Wood also said she has noticed a shift in the way those in politics are treated.

"I do some mentoring of younger people, from disadvantaged backgrounds often, who are interested in getting involved in politics.

"I’m always struck by how much time we have to spend talking about abuse on social media and strategies and tactics to deal with that.

"It’s a new thing, it’s not a thing that was around really four or five years ago."

Labour MS Jack Sargeant succeeded his father Carl Sargeant following the February 2018 by-election. Credit: PA Images
  • "We should not be normalising references to suicide in everyday language"

Jack Sargeant is a Labour MS for Alyn and Deeside, where he succeeded his father Carl Sargeant following the February 2018 by-election.

Mr Sargeant, 49, was found dead at his home in Flintshire in 2017. A senior coroner ruled his death as suicide.

Since then, Jack Sargeant said he has experienced people making insensitive references to his father and how he died.

Jack Sargeant's father, Carl Sargeant, died by suicide in 2017. Credit: PA Images

He explained that the term "economic suicide" was once used to disagree with him - something he felt was wrong.

"We should not be normalising references to suicide in everyday language," he said.

"We should be talking openly if we can about suicide and preventing suicide. but we should not be using it in everyday language.

"That was very close to my dad’s anniversary and obviously, tragically we lost him to suicide.

"It was hurtful, it was hard and that blow that day arguably could take someone to the extreme and that’s what we’ve got to stop.

We don’t know what people are going through and we should be mindful of that one bad word, that one mistaken and misspoken word, could really, really hurt someone and we’ve just got to be kinder to each other."

Fay Jones became a Conservative MP in 2019. Credit: ITV Wales
  • "What's hard to deal with is the insidious, constant chipping away at you"

Fay Jones was first elected as an MP when she won the seat for Brecon and Radnorshire in the 2019 general election, beating the Liberal Democrat incumbent Jane Dodds.

She became one of the three first female Conservative MPs to be elected in Wales.

She said she has received death threats since being in the political limelight, but added that it's a different kind of abuse that can be harder to deal with.

"I hope it doesn't sound silly to say this - the death threats you can deal with because there is a mechanism, there are people to deal with," she explained.

"What's hard to deal with is the insidious, constant chipping away at you, where you're just being undermined and belittled.

"I’m more than happy to talk to anybody who wants to talk to me, but those people never get in touch because they have a problem they want to discuss or something that they need to get off their chest - it’s just constant hammering away at you on social media."

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