Throughout the course of the Brexit negotiations there has been a rise in unparliamentary language directed towards MPs, specifically towards Theresa May. The comments made by anonymous Conservatives, who briefed violent rhetoric to Sunday papers, have led to condemnation from across the British political spectrum.
During a statement about the rise of vile language in the Commons, May called for more to be done to ensure the language used by MPs is appropriate, especially in sensible debate. “It is incumbent on all of us in public life to be careful about the language we use,’’ she said. ‘’Whatever the subject, we should all be careful about our language”.
Some of the comments used by MPs called for the Prime Minister to “bring her own noose” to Parliament. The Sunday Times quoted one unnamed Tory MP as saying “the moment is coming when the knife gets heated, stuck in her front and twisted. She’ll be dead soon”. Labour MP Yvette Cooper, despite her political differences with May, has expressed her disgust at the comments used. “I don’t know who it is. Maybe we should all be told because it might stop him using such violent, dehumanising language against a woman again,” she told BBC Radio 4. Nicola Sturgeon tweeted on the matter too, saying “few disagree with her more than [I] do, but language like this debases politics”.
Cooper added that violent language such as that aimed at the Prime Minister “is normalising violence in public debate at a time when we lost Jo Cox, we have had threats against Rosie Cooper and we have had other violent death threats against women MPs”.
A No. 10 spokesperson confirmed that there would be “no investigation” into which MPs had briefed Sunday newspapers. “I don’t intend to dignify those specific anonymous comments with a response. Personal vitriol has no place in our politics,” he added.
Conservative MP Mark Francois is a public critic of May, yet defended the PM’ decision to curb the use of violent rhetoric in the House of Commons. Francois labeled the language as “unacceptable”, however adding he ‘’is not in a position to tell the Conservative Chief Whip how to do their job’’.
As a consequence, he has been accused of failing to completely condemn the language used in the Commons, but says that when there is “frustration on the backbenches with both leavers and remainers…nobody is listening” to the comments. Anna Soubry MP described this response as “shameful”, and Antoinette Sandbach MP said she was “fed up of seeing bullying and undermining of the PM because of [individuals’] so-called ‘vision of Brexit’”.