Former US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has described threats of violence being made against female politicians as something which jeopardises democracy.
Speaking to former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard at an event at King’s College London on Wednesday, the former US secretary of state said it was “tragic” that some female politicians felt unsafe.
Ms Gillard highlighted that 18 female MPs would be stepping down ahead of the upcoming General Election, with some exiting earlier in their careers when compared to male MPs also leaving the Commons.
Nicky Morgan and Amber Rudd are two MPs who have announced they will not be standing in the December 12 poll, citing the abuse they receive as a reason for their departures.
Mrs Clinton said: “This is one of the first things I was told by friends of mine who are current or former women members of the House of Commons or House of Lords, there was a growing anxiety among women members about the threats that they face.
“Of course, with the memory of Jo Cox who was murdered for her political standing.
“I take it very seriously and it is fuelled by these online vile attacks that are out there, but it also breaks into the real world.
“When I heard about all of these people, particularly the women who weren’t going to run again or weren’t going to run in the first place, they attributed it to the threats that they face, that is not only a threat to individuals but a threat to our democracies.”
Mrs Clinton told the event at the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership (GIWL) and Policy Institute she had been the target of threats and that the issue had wide-reaching ramifications.
She added: “If people are intimidated out of running for office in a democracy, because of these hate-mongers on the left or on the right, motivated by whatever, that is the path of authoritarianism, that’s the path of fascism.”
Mrs Clinton said she had watched the Brexit process since the referendum and highlighted the vote did not include practical guidance about the specifics of leaving the EU.
She said: “Your country is about as divided as our country is trying to figure out what to do with the results of a referendum that didn’t provide as much guidance as needed to make the decision the voters apparently voted for.
“‘We want to leave’ – okay does that mean you want to leave the customs union? Plus the EU? How are we actually going to operationalise this?
“I watched from a distance as Theresa May tried over and over again to come up with something that fulfilled the voters’ preference but actually could work and could work in a way that didn’t undermine or hurt the UK.”
The 2016 US election Democratic candidate also criticised social media companies for failing to act against abuse and misinformation on their platforms.
Mrs Clinton said that the early decision to view internet sites as “passive providers” of the content they hosted was now outdated and sites like Facebook and Twitter have an obligation to act.
She said: “Facebook has taken the position that it will not regulate political speech which means that it will take money for and run advertisements that are blatantly false.”