Two Labour MPs have been subjected to homophobic threats by political activists, with one of them receiving a death threat.
In non-connected incidents Labour MPs Ben Bradshaw and Angela Eagle have both been on the receiving end of intimidation and abuse of a homophobic nature.
Bradshaw, who is the MP for Exeter and openly gay, was sent a racist and homophobic message the day prior to Jo Cox’s murder. Jeffrey Farquharson, a 37-year old Brexit campaigner originally from St Andrew’s, yesterday admitted in court to making threats and making homophobic comments during a lengthy rant he recorded on Bradshaw’s voicemail.
Farquharson repeatedly described Bradshaw as “evil” and made several references to the MPs sexual orientation on the offensive message. He also made comments about Muslims, before ending with: “I will kill you, you bastard.”
Appearing at Exeter Magistrates Court, Farquharson admitted “sending a communication of an indecent or offensive nature” and apologised for making the call. District Judge Baker described the call as “extremely offensive and very unpleasant” and told Farquharson he is likely to face a jail sentence, but adjourned for psychiatric assessment. Farquharson was bailed until August for sentencing.
Farquharson’s facebook page contains images of him wearing a “Britain Out” T-shirt and also links to a petition to “get the racist Diane Abbott out of government”.
Meanwhile, Angela Eagle – another “out” MP – has reportedly been subjected to a campaign of “harassment and intimidation” since resigning from the shadow cabinet and announcing her intention to challenge leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The allegation was made by former minister Tessa Jowell, who said that many MPs and their staff “coming to work everyday fearing the threat of intimidation and worse”.
She made particular reference to Ms Eagle, and made specific claims about the abuse she had received: “Angela Eagle – if you look at her constituency – her local constituency passed a motion in support of Jeremy Corbyn.” During the meeting Jowell claims, Eagle received hostility from members of Momentum [a pro-Corbyn, “grassroots” movement] including anti-gay abuse. She said: “I spoke to Angela about her meeting…she faced homophobic abuse at that meeting. Talk to MPs all around the country – under the influence of Momentum, activists, members of parliament and their staff are facing day in, day out harassment and – in some cases – intimidation.”
The problem of increased harassment and intimidation of parliamentary staff is also something that concerns Bradshaw. Speaking after the hearing, he said: “I am worried about my staff in Exeter who have borne the brunt of his behaviour.”
He added: “The security of MPs is constantly reviewed and of course it has as a result of Jo’s murder. We have all been advised to hold appointment-only surgeries – which I think is a sensible caution.
“We have also been advised to let local police know about our movements. But we live in a free democracy and we value and cherish our elected representatives being out and about in public in their constituency. Politicians driving in armoured convoy and being protected by high walls is not the British way. But it is about getting the balance right and not allowing crimes like this to change our way of life.”
Recent crime statistics show a significant increase in hate crime – in London alone hate crime-related arrests have increased by 75% since the referendum vote. Almost 600 incidents of racially motivated hate crime were reported to the Metropolitan Police between 24th June and 2nd July, prompting London Mayor Sadiq Khan to say: “You can’t escape the link between the referendum and a surge in racial incidents”.
There have also been a number of homophobic hate crimes reported, including an incident in Covent Garden and the appearance of neo-Nazi homophobic and racist stickers in Glasgow – both of which appear linked to rising intolerance in the aftermath of the EU referendum.