Tory election candidates tell of suffering verbal abuse during campaign

Updated: 

Conservative MPs and candidates have described being the target of physical and verbal abuse, including death threats, during the General Election campaign.

Theresa May is understood to be considering a review of laws in order to increase protection for prospective members, after pledging to "stamp out" intimidation and harassment of candidates.

One female candidate said she was given police protection after "nasty" verbal attacks, particularly on social media, left her feeling unsafe when alone.

Another Tory hopeful said he was threatened with being "strung up" after a "deluge" of abuse online.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, two electoral veterans said the 2017 General Election campaign saw a marked increase in threatening behaviour.

Former Army captain Johnny Mercer described how a member of public hurled obscenities at him and his wife Felicity in the Plymouth Moor View constituency on the eve of the election.

"Instead of coming to me he approached my wife," he said.

"He didn't talk to her; he yelled in her face, pointing past her head, screaming obscenities about the 'f****** Tories'.

"'Oi, what on earth are you doing?' I shouted as I approached him. He turned and started walking towards me. I thought he was going to hit me.

"His face was full of hate and rage."

A female candidate, who spoke to the newspaper on account of anonymity, said she questioned whether she wanted to be an MP after receiving threats online.

"I didn't feel safe to go out or be at home alone. I made sure I had a group around me at all times when I was campaigning ... I got in touch with the police, who agreed to keep a closer eye on me," she said.

Byron Davies, who lost his seat in Gower, told the newspaper: "A few weeks before the election, I got two death threats online.

"One of them said if I was seen again in a particular area I would be strung up."

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans described an altercation in a pub on St George's Day.

He told the newspaper: "(The man said) You are a terrorist, child murderer, go back to Swansea, you are not welcome here," and kept repeating it.

"Then another man came over and appeared well oiled but called me a c*** and pushed me."

On Saturday Yvette Cooper condemned online abuse directed at Labour MP Luciana Berger, who has been targeted by supporters of party leader Jeremy Corbyn over her past criticism of him.

Ms Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said the comments were "unacceptable" and "utterly shameful".

A Downing Street source said the Prime Minister was considering whether to review laws surrounding the protection of candidates after hearing colleagues' accounts.

During a visit to Hamburg for the G20 she said: "I'm determined to do something about it. I'm determined to stamp it out."

There have been heightened concerns over MPs' safety since the killing of Jo Cox.

Labour's MP for Batley and Spen was murdered in June 2016 by far-right extremist Thomas Mair.