Wales politics

Put politics aside and end abuse, former candidate says

Emily Owen
Image caption Emily Owen - a first-time candidate in June - has previously complained about sexist abuse

A former Welsh Labour candidate has called for more tolerance and an end to abuse when politicians disagree.

It follows abuse received by Tory AM-turned-MP Antoinette Sandbach who rebelled against her party leader Theresa May in a vote on Brexit.

Emily Owen, abused when she stood in Aberconwy in June, said: "We need to be putting politics to one side."

Swansea East Labour MP Carolyn Harris said she doubted there was an answer and hoped people would just "grow up".

Ms Sandbach - a former assembly member for north Wales who is now MP for Eddisbury in Cheshire - was one of 11 Conservative MPs who have reported receiving abuse including death threats after voting to give Parliament a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck with Brussels.

Tory peers Baroness Altmann and Baroness Wheatcroft wrote in the Observer that such threats were "worrying symptoms of the toxic atmosphere which has been created in our country".

Image caption Antoinette Sandbach was named by a newspaper as one of several Brexit "mutineers"

Ms Sandbach told BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement programme: "I am very grateful for the support of many, many people from around the country who have emailed me to thank me and my colleagues for standing up for the role of Parliament.

"I have equally had some very unpleasant emails and some that have gone to the police ... I'm a trained criminal lawyer and wouldn't be reporting anything trivial."

Ms Owen, a first-time candidate in June who spoke out after being bombarded with sexist abuse, said the result was to receive even more abuse from sections of the press.

She urged politicians on all sides to do what they could to create a calmer atmosphere by treating opponents with respect.

"We need to be putting politics to one side when it comes to abuse," Ms Owen told BBC Radio Wales on Monday.

"We need to be saying - regardless of who it is, or what it is, or what they believe, or if we agree or disagree with what they're saying - we can't have people being abused like this."

Image caption Carolyn Harris said much of the abuse was personal and not politically motivated

Ms Harris told the Good Morning Wales programme about abusive online comments about her weight, and angry phone calls to her office after she spoke about struggling to pay for a child's funeral.

"Sometimes we get people who habitually will criticise us - we don't necessarily know their politics, they just have a problem with an individual," she said.

"They will continue to send vile stuff in, and that's when you report it to the police.

"A lot of time people just spend their time on keyboards banging away to see who they can upset the most that day.

"They seem to really get a kick out of it, which is really sad. I question their sanity that they've got nothing better to do than to be vile and nasty to people."

Asked about the possibility of tighter laws against abuse of politicians, the Swansea East MP said: "I don't know if there is an answer - as long as there are people who are inclined to insult other people then we're going to have this problem.

"I just wish people would grow up and start behaving like decent human beings.

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