A Welsh MP has said that abuse and threats of violence should not be accepted as “part of the job.”
Ogmore MP, Chris Elmore said police are currently investigating a recent threat towards him.
“You know, I had a threat just 10 days ago. The police are now investigating a constituent who... warned me that I shouldn't be walking around the streets at night and suggested they know where I live. And that's being investigated."
South Wales Police has confirmed it received a report of the threat.
Chris Elmore made his comments when he joined me for the ITV Wales podcast, The New Normal with Adrian Masters.
He said threats and abuse increased during parliament’s Brexit crisis and while they’ve eased a little since then, they have continued although the focus has switched to criticism of Covid restrictions.
Chris Elmore added, “I hate this phrase: ‘It's part of the job’, it isn't part of the job. But I fear that increasingly politicians just think it is part of the job, that you have to take it on the chin. And I actually think that can't be ‘the new normal’ - to coin the phrase of this podcast - that that cannot be the new normal, that threats are just accepted if you're in public life.”
His thoughts are echoed by Jane Dodds, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, who became a Senedd member in May and who also joins me on the podcast.
Jane Dodds said, “Chris is absolutely right. It's not inbuilt; we should not think, ‘yes, this is fine, let’s just expect this as part of the job, let's expect extra security, etc.’ We should not have to deal with this.
“It is about talking to people about what we're all trying to do. I was a social worker for twenty seven years and it is certainly part of the public sector framework that people think that it's OK to abuse people who work in the public sector and who give a public service, and it isn't. So we just have to keep standing up against that.”
It’s not just politicians who shouldn’t expect abuse, said Chris Elmore, it’s people from all walks of life - which is why he is focussing on the UK Government’s Online Harms Bill when it comes back to parliament in the autumn.
Online abuse, he said “is huge and it's growing and it doesn't discriminate no matter what your background, who you are or where you're from.
“I think it has a far greater impact, as Jane has mentioned, on women. But you see what's happening to... black footballers and the abuse they're facing. And it isn't going away."
The legislation, he said, is “hugely significant [in that] we're looking to regulate platforms and trying to find ways of dealing with anonymity that really need tackling quite urgently.”
Listen to The New Normal with Adrian Masters:
Our conversation spanned a number of topics - and wasn’t all entirely serious.
When we were talking about the easing of Covid restrictions, I asked the two politicians if they were planning to go to a nightclub now that they can.
I also asked them if they had favourite club tunes - and if their younger selves were ‘ravers’.
Chris Elmore said, “Oh don’t be silly Adrian… I think I was born at sixty five. No, I don't think I was a full on clubber but Wednesday night was student night in uni and it was... a good laugh. But I'm pretty sure I was still very sensible even back then. I'm sure friends would still confirm that.”
Not so with Jane Dodds.
“Oh my goodness, it's admission time. Yes I was. I did go nightclubbing quite a lot and my husband, who will kill me, he had leather trousers to go nightclubbing in. You know, it was that kind of era. So, yeah, yes. I love clubbing.”
So you see that all the important questions are asked in this podcast! It ranges from the very serious to the lighthearted, from politics to the personal.
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