Threats against female politicians in Britain

Threats against female politicians in Britain

Early one Sunday morning, British politician Heidi Allen answered her front door to be confronted by a man who had been harassing her.

He was a former soldier, whom she had met at a local remembrance service in her village in eastern England, who began to email and tweet at her to the point where she was forced to block him.
“He tried to thrust his war medals into my hands, [saying] ‘take them back, give them back to the Prime Minister, I don’t want them,'” before going into an aggressive spiel about Brexit, Allen told CNN.
Allen was then a Conservative MP, before quitting the party in February to stand as interim leader of the new anti-Brexit party Change UK. This week she joined the Liberal Democrats, who are also opposed to Brexit.
While Allen’s office warned the man not to approach her or visit her private house again, he then shared aerial images and detailed information about her home to what she said was his “hard Brexit, right-wing network.”
But what particularly frightened Allen, she says, was a reference he made about buying a rope. “It was absolutely terrifying,” Allen recalls. “I was really, really, really scared.”
The man, Ian Couch, was eventually jailed for his threats — but his effect on Allen’s life remains. Permanent panic buttons, security lights and industrial locks are now installed around her house.
“You shouldn’t have to live like that,” Allen says, “but, it’s normal now.”
This is a reality not just for Allen, but many other British lawmakers, who are receiving an unprecedented number of threatening messages since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union in 2016.
MPs are now taking extra security measures — including taking taxis home and carrying panic alarms — to feel safe while doing their jobs in a polarized political climate.
Since the 2016 referendum, MPs have faced abuse on social media and in person for their stances on Brexit.
Women on the front line of British politics have experienced a particularly unnerving level of abuse, ranging from harassment to outright threats of rape and murder.
The memory of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was stabbed and shot to death by a far-right extremist after a public meeting in 2016, however, reminds many of how very real those threats can be.

Jo Cox, 41, was shot and stabbed in her constituicency.

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