The Reader: It’s time to restore order to debates and protests

In the terrible aftermath of reflection, many of us hoped that the shock of Jo Cox’s murder would at the very least encourage a more respectful, compassionate politics. Instead, the opposite has happened.

MPs from across the political spectrum report credible death threats. They stand back from the platform in Tube stations for fear of an unprovoked push from behind. Journalists employ bodyguards. Voices struggle to be heard against the noise of threatening demonstrations.

Both online and offline they are subjected, day in and day out, to the most vile and threatening abuse and threats.

Of course, politics has always been a noisy, passionate affair — and so it should be. But aggressive harassment and intimidation have no place in our democracy.

We work to heal divisions in our society and to help drive out extremist hatred. So I have invited broadcasters, the police, the parliamentary authorities and MPs to join us in trying to find better ways of guaranteeing the safety of all participants in public debates without restricting anybody’s right to engage in free speech or peaceful protest.

There are big issues at stake in British public life right now. But none is bigger than the need to defend our tradition of passionate yet peaceful debate.

If the murder of an MP isn’t enough to bring us to our senses, what is?
Catherine Anderson
CEO, the Jo Cox Foundation

EDITOR'S REPLY

Dear Catherine

I walk between Westminster and Abingdon Green about once a week to do broadcast interviews. I’ve always admired both the Remain and Leave demonstrators lining the route — come rain or shine. On chilly days I’ve even seen some do a coffee run for broadcasters. But this new group, including some from the far-Right, have changed everything.

I understand why some MPs do not feel comfortable walking outside Parliament right now. We should be more honest about which MPs are targeted by this kind of harassment. While both male and female MPs suffer abuse, it is a fact that women are targeted disproportionately.

Until the police take a zero-tolerance approach to this, I fear the tireless work done to improve representation in Parliament will unravel. I knew Jo Cox and I think she, like me, would find it unfathomable to think that women might be put off entering politics, 100 years on from them first taking their seats.

Kate Proctor, Political Reporter

Coach station plan just shifts the issue

Your report on the possible relocation of Victoria coach station argues that it could ‘“free up 3.3 acres of land for development’’ by the Duke of Westminster’s property company [“Victoria coach station could move out to free up £150m slice of land,” January 8].

Does it not then follow that the relocation of the coach station would obliterate a similar acreage of precious land in some other less advantaged part of London?

Local authorities’ plans to develop our city should be designed not to suit the convenience of the Duke of Westminster but to meet the basic housing needs of the thousands stuck on council waiting lists.
Francis Prideaux

According to your article, there is a plan to move Victoria coach station to Royal Oak. The idea that 1,200 coaches plus all the attendant infrastructure could fit into this tiny area makes the jaw drop in astonishment and horror.
Nicky Hessenberg

Government has to tackle inequality

Every year, the EU contributes just over £500 million to London’s communities and projects.

The Government promised to consult on a “Shared Prosperity Fund” by the end of 2018. This new fund would “use the structural money that comes back to the UK as a result of Brexit” to reduce inequalities.

We are now in 2019 — with less than 80 days to go until Brexit — and there’s no sign of this consultation. It’s time ministers guaranteed these projects, or vulnerable Londoners will pay the price.
Jean Lambert
Green MEP, London

Jack Shepherd will not escape justice

I would like to reassure readers that the GBH case against Jack Shepherd was never closed [“Legal aid for fugitive speedboat killer is a mockery of justice,” January 8].

The CPS prosecuted and secured Shepherd’s manslaughter conviction and we are as determined as ever to see justice served. He failed to appear in court on the GBH charge and a warrant was issued for his arrest. The warrant remains active. When he is found he will be prosecuted.
Sue Hemming
Director of Legal Services
The Crown Prosecution Service