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Political pressure is great. Bullying MPs like me at home is utterly wrong

<span>Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. ‘Improvements that he fought for mean that today I feel safer, or at least when I am scared, there is somewhere to turn.’</span><span>Photograph: Yui Mok/PA</span>
Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. ‘Improvements that he fought for mean that today I feel safer, or at least when I am scared, there is somewhere to turn.’Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Last week, someone didn’t just wish me to feel pain now. Their hope was that in the afterlife I would experience eternal suffering. Ten out of 10 for flair. Someone once sent me an email about which of my orifices they would like to pour molten metal into – it was all of them, described in glorious detail.

I have a special file of restraining orders – I felt weird putting them with my other important documents. It didn’t seem fitting to file them next to my sons’ birth certificates. Multiple men have served time in prison for attacks or threats of attacks on me. One remains in prison today, serving a 10-year sentence for various crimes against me and others.

Every now and again, the story of aggression and abuse of MPs comes back around. This time it is thanks to parliamentary procedures, which considering it usually hits the headlines when one of us is killed, is a blessed relief. The rhetoric is usually that nothing has changed and things are getting worse. As someone who has faced threats, violence and abuse since the moment I was elected, I simply cannot agree.

I am not saying that levels of vitriol have improved – they haven’t. Seemingly binary issues in parliament, such as Brexit and now the war in Gaza, cause the security temperature to rise. Being a woman who speaks out against violent men is a more constant source of heat.

What has changed, and to me it is unrecognisable, is how seriously we take this issue and how systems and processes have improved for MPs to report and be supported. Eight years ago, when I complained about the molten metal guy, nothing was done; this week my afterlife complainant was dealt with so swiftly I was the one being chased by police for communication, not the other way around.

There is a difference between feeling political pressure and feeling scared because of threats and attack

The systems for protection have improved even if the threat hasn’t, and that is in no small part thanks to Lindsay Hoyle, the speaker of the Commons. He is more obsessed with my security than I am. I don’t say this to defend him in the current furore, I say it as a member of parliament who has been considered high risk for nearly a decade. Improvements that he fought for, that he worked on, mean that today I feel safer, or at least when I am scared there is somewhere to turn for an efficient service.

It would be churlish of me not to recognise that I am under less pressure than some of my colleagues and friends, because I resigned [from the Labour frontbench] to vote for a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza. I have not been such a target of ire – although I haven’t, as I never do, escaped it completely.

However, I have started to feel a little uncomfortable about how that pressure is being written about in our papers. There is a difference between feeling political pressure and feeling scared of threats and attack. Political pressure should not simply be tolerated, it should be expected. I have spent my career trying to train the public to win campaigns and fight for their rights.

I stood on the stage at the million-strong People’s Vote march and said to a crowd of passionate remainers that I would not tolerate them calling my constituents who voted for Brexit stupid or gullible. They weren’t, and treating them as such was unhelpful to the campaign as well as just arrogant. I will not tolerate the same now about my constituents who are passionate, as we all are, about wanting the deaths in Gaza to end. They are not a mob, they are people who care about something and are using the powers they have to fight for it. When that spills over to criminality and threat I call the police, as I did when my office was attacked during the endless Brexit votes.

Related: British MPs fearful of violent attacks as tensions over Gaza war increase threats

There must be rules and boundaries about this, so listening to the representative from Just Stop Oil on the radio last week, gleefully calling for people to campaign outside MPs’ houses, was almost enough to make me side with oil giants. Protest peacefully at my work by all means – my job is to represent the public – but if campaigns spring up outside my home, the level of security I would need for that not to put me at immense risk from elements that the peaceful protesters wouldn’t be able to control would be untenable. It is a dangerous and counterproductive campaign plan.

I’m tired and tearful about the threats and violence. Lines have been crossed from peaceful democratic pressure to a dangerous threat, but if we allow the latter to damn the former then the threat to our democracy would be even greater. Protest to your heart’s content – just do it with convincing words and leave the molten metal and hopes of eternal pain at home.

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