We should not let thugs intimidate us out of a Peoples Vote
Politics brings out strong feelings whenever it is discussed. This is a great thing and what makes me proud of living in a democracy where free speech is celebrated.
However, as we saw on Monday, events have put into focus the abuse people have to face for daring to suggest that we hold a further democratic vote on the Brexit deal.
Do not be shocked – abuse is sadly not a new phenomenon.
Diane Abbott, the first black female MP and current Shadow Home Secretary, suffered almost half of all abusive tweets sent to female MPs of all political parties in the run-up to the 2017 general election, according to human rights charity, Amnesty International.
The fact that Abbott is a woman and is black appear to have been the primary sources of vitriol that has been directed at her.
- Anna Soubry MP being called a ‘Nazi’ and a ‘fascist’ whilst being chased from a TV interview until she safely entered Parliament. She is a woman.
- Femi Oluwole is a People’s Vote campaigner. He was harassed by far-right demonstrators, calling him ‘scum’ and mistaken for David Lammy MP. He is black.
- Owen Jones, a Guardian Journalist, was followed as he was walking, called a ‘traitor’ and a ‘tampon’. He is openly gay.
Far right sympathisers are specifically targeting people from minority communities. All three prominent campaigners, as well as many others have suffered incidents of this nature previously.
Let me be clear, the actions seen on Monday and in recent weeks are not representative of the vast majority of those who support Brexit. They are a tiny fringe who need to be challenged robustly. However, despite being small in number, we should not be complacent about the actions of a few.
During the 2016 referendum, we saw the horrific murder of the late Labour MP, Jo Cox by a lone far-right terrorist.
Rightfully, those of all parties and all sides of the Brexit debate were shocked and saddened. We all vowed to conduct politics better.
So, when we see elected politicians, journalists and young campaigners being abused and chased down the street, this should worry us all. Words have consequences and I am worried that these things may escalate further.
Stephen Barclay, the latest Brexit Secretary has suggested that Monday’s disturbing scenes demonstrate why we should not have another referendum or a People’s Vote.
To suggest that abuse and intimidation is enough reason to not hold further democratic votes is disgraceful.
I understand that we live in a bitterly divided country and that for the vast majority, they voted for Brexit because of legitimate concerns.
However, research overwhelmingly shows that Brexit will make people poorer and the divisions already apparent in this country will not healed by a Brexit that makes us worse off.
Appeasing those who want to silence MPs, journalists and activists who call for a democratic new public vote on Brexit will do nothing to heal the already fractious divide. The way to combat this behaviour is with more democracy not less.
Many Leave voters felt anger and frustration towards the ‘establishment’ in 2016 for many reasons – often nothing to do with Europe.
The People’s Vote campaign is determined to show how the EU can be part of the solution rather than the problem for communities that have been left out or left behind.
We are still in the New Year honeymoon phase. Most people will be trying to adhere to their resolutions, be it getting fitter, ditching alcohol or starting a new hobby.
May we all join in a collective New Year’s resolution? To conduct politics and debate with greater civility and respect for one another, as that is the only way forward.
Bashir Ibrahim is the Ethnic Minorities Lead for the People’s Vote campaign, the campaign demanding a public vote on the Brexit deal. Follow him on Twitter.
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