Sister of Jo Cox warns of ‘worrying’ abuse in political debate

The sister of murdered Jo Cox has warned that the level of abuse aimed at politicians is now worse than when the MP was killed during the Brexit campaign.

Kim Leadbeater visited Scotland to speak to MSPs, urging them to lead by example to improve the nature of political debate.

The former Batley and Spen MP was shot and stabbed during the EU referendum campaign and her sister said that since then things have become “progressively worse”.

She said: “As we know to our cost, it only takes one individual who can’t differentiate between violent language and threatening language, and violent action for lives to be torn apart.”

Speaking outside the Scottish Parliament before meeting Government ministers, cross-party representatives and the presiding officer Ken Macintosh, Ms Leadbeater said that her late sister would find the current public discourse “extremely upsetting and very sad”.

“Jo was a huge advocate for passionate discussion and robust debate but I think she would be extremely disappointed that things have got to this point.

Jo Cox commemorative events
Jo Cox, the MP who was murdered during the EU referendum campaign (Jo Cox Foundation/PA)

“The current climate is particularly worrying, the abuse politicians have faced has reached new low levels and I think we all have to work together now to try and change the nature of that debate.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with robust debate and being passionate about the subject, but when that descends into personal attacks, abuse and violent language, I think that’s not helpful, that’s not going to move things forward.

“Whether you are a politician or a journalist or a normal member of the public like me, we all have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a more-civilised manner.

“I think things are undoubtedly worse.

“I’ve had lots of conversations with MPs down in Westminster and the abuse that they have suffered – whether it’s on social media or via email and contact with their office – has really shocked me.

“Personal threats of violence, rape threats towards women, MPs fearing for the safety of their families – that can’t be right.

Ms Leadbeater said she does not have a Facebook or Twitter account to try and avoid the online abuse she has witnessed.

Kim Leadbeater at Scottish Parliament
Kim Leadbeater met politicians and spoke about The Great Get Together (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She helped set up the Great Get Together weekend, which will take place on what would have been Ms Cox’s 45th birthday.

Ms Leadbeater added: “What inspires me is that when I talk to people about this there is a real appetite for something positive – people are sick of Brexit.

“That weekend in June is an opportunity to do that; throw a street party, get together with your neighbours, do something positive and have a swear box so that if anyone mentions Brexit you throw a fiver in for charity.”

The third Great Get Together weekend will be held from 21-23 June.

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