We are entitled to freedom of speech and the right to protest — but that does not mean yelling abuse and harassing MPs

We are entitled to freedom of speech and the right to protest — but that does not mean yelling abuse and harassing MPs

January 13, 2019

Both are important and much cherished rights that have been fought for over the years.

But something really scary is happening in this country. I’m talking about the footage of Anna Soubry being harassed and bullied in the street which has led to a man being arrested.

Who would have thought we would live somewhere where people think it’s OK to aggressively call an MP a “slag” and a “Nazi” to her face — simply because she has a view that they don’t agree with.

When it comes to political harassment outside Parliament, some people have suggested that women are disproportionately being targeted. I’m not sure that’s true.

Journalist Owen Jones was also followed down the street in an equally bullying way.

And not so long ago, Jacob Rees-Mogg was verbally attacked on his own doorstep in front of his children.

The sad truth is that there is a nasty taste about politics in everyone’s mouth at the moment.

And this kind of behaviour isn’t a million miles away from the way that politicians treat each other in the chamber.

PMQs has become a ludicrous, abusive, screaming match full of insults and contempt. Sometimes it’s worse than that and the confrontation is pre-meditated.

Not so long ago, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell called for Tory MPs “not to be able to show their faces in public” without being challenged by “direct action”.

Since he said it, the atmosphere both inside and outside Parliament has become considerably more feverish. But the point is that some people take their lead from the way politicians treat each other.

Politics should be all about serving people before you serve yourself.

And there was a time when we trusted our politicians to do the right thing for the right reasons.

But that trust is gone.

In fact, people are becoming sick to the back teeth with politicians doing things that suit them, rather than the country.

Whether we like it or not, the majority voted to leave the EU. But there is no doubt that some people feel they were misled or the terms weren’t explained to them. And if people were angry before the referendum, they are even angrier now.

But they are going to have to find a different way to express it than by shouting threatening abuse in people’s faces.

Politics is hard enough without fearing for your life and needing security to go to work.

This country is changing — and not for the better. We have no tolerance for other people’s views, or when things don’t go the way we want them to. We all want our own way.

The stakes are very high. And no one trusts their politicians to do what they want them to do in the way they want them to do it.

So their response is to hunt them down and hurl abuse.

It used to be that this sort of thing only happened on social media, and we all agreed it wouldn’t happen in real life. But look, it now is.

People sending out this abuse should be held to account for their actions and words.

Shouting in someone’s face in a threatening manner is not acceptable behaviour. It’s harassment and utterly deplorable.

But also, politicians need to start building trust again. They need to say something and mean it,  and do the right things for the right reasons.

Oh Lord…more criticism

I’M no stranger to criticism. And normally it’s water off a duck’s back.

But I really take issue with being called a “passenger” this week, together with my friend Lord Sugar, for our attendance at the House of Lords.

I want to make something very clear. Despite being a full-time CEO, I have voted in 55 per cent of divisions, speak once a month and have never taken a penny of the daily expenses, allowances or fees. Lord Sugar, like me, does not take a single penny.

People seem to misunderstand the role of the peers in the House of Lords. For a start, quantity has never equalled quality. But also, we do not implement legislation.

We use our life skills and experience to help draft legislation and improve it by suggesting amendments that make the bills work better in the “real world”.

Our second priority is to hold the Government to account by questioning ministers, seeking information and debating government policy.

We also debate issues. In the Organ Donation debate I spoke in recently, contributors included a board member of patient groups, a surgeon, the chairman of the Royal College of Surgeons, a medical professor, a doctor and one of the heads of NHS Blood and Transplant – all of whom also happen to be peers making valuable contributions to help government work better.

So I don’t like being called a passenger, because it’s wrong. The reason I am a peer is I want to try to help make the world a better place. That is my only motivation to be part of the House of Lords.

So I’m a bit annoyed that Lord Sugar and I are being picked on because we are on the telly.

We need peers to have real-world experience and make their contribution, which Lord Sugar and I do.

We do it for free and we will keep doing so. And we will do so proudly.

Shutting out the kids

EEK! The Channel 4 show Shut-Ins: Britain’s Fattest People made for some seriously disquieting viewing on Wednesday.

It’s hard for the average viewer to understand how someone could allow themselves to become so obese that they are bed-bound.

Harder for me to understand is the people in that position who allow their children to become their carers.

I know it’s not easy to lose weight and keep it off, but asking your eight-year-old to look after you is not only ruining your own life, but hers too.

What child should be the main carer for their obese mother?

Jumping the gun on Jeff

WHEN I read the break-up statement from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, 55, and his novelist wife, MacKenzie, earlier this week I was struck by how impressive it was.

“If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again,” the statement read.

The couple wished each other well with no regrets and it sounded like the near-perfect separation.

And then, the next day, came the news that photos of Bezos and the woman he has allegedly been having an affair with for the past eight months were about to be published.

So I guess he jumped before he was pushed, as it were.

How disappointing.

Disturbing viewing

I WATCHED a really disturbing clip this week of a hooligan sneaking up to a sleeping homeless man in Leeds and – to impress some of his yobbish mates – blasting a really loud air horn in his ear.

It’s one of the most disgusting acts I have seen in a while.

Tormenting those less fortunate than you and picking on them because you consider them worthless is the lowest of the low.

Many people living on the street have addiction or mental health problems. Treating both is important.

But just as important is treating all people with dignity.

Cowards need punishment

EQUALLY as shocking was the story about three men who attacked two others walking along London’s South Bank, apparently because they were holding hands.

This blatant homophobia feels archaic – and needs to stop.

I hope when the pathetic perpetrators are found they get more than a telling off and a caution.

Put ban on Yann

ANYONE else stifle a yawn reading about writer Yann Moix, who said in an interview this week that he finds women of 50 “too old”.

The Frenchman continued: “I prefer younger women’s bodies, that’s all. End of.

“The body of a 25-year-old woman is extraordinary. The body of a woman of 50 is not extraordinary at all.”

Apparently Yann would be “incapable” of loving a woman aged 50 or above – despite being 50 himself.

Let’s face it, any body belonging to a 50-year-old – male or female – is probably not what it was at 25.

So since he seems to be talking only about attraction, not love, why on earth he thinks a woman of 25 will want to look at his body is anyone’s guess.

But also, who would want to be with someone as superficial as this?



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Roo have been told

APPARENTLY, Wayne Rooney has been banned by wife Coleen from leaving the house without her following his drunken arrest at a US airport.

Ex-Manchester United star Rooney, 33, who now plays for Washington’s DC United in the US, was arrested for public intoxication on December 16 at the city’s Dulles International Airport.

The former England captain received a furious phone call from Coleen, who apparently yelled at him: “How many times do you need to be told?”

Oh dear. Poor Coleen, she’s got five children not four.

How tiresome.

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