After the appearance at the Supreme Court of businesswoman and campaigner Gina Miller, flanked by security guards after having received death threats and following Police advice, those in positions of power might have been thought to have stopped and thought before returning to the rhetoric that has so polarised much of the electorate, and looked to calm tensions. But that thought would have been sadly misplaced.
Predictably enough, the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate looked at Wednesday’s Commons vote on the prospective March timetable for triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, saw that 89 MPs had of their own free will voted against the idea, and decided that their names should be published, with the excuse being that those MPs had “voted against the will of the British people”. The Mail, as so often, led the way.
The Murdoch doggies at the Sun also named most of the dissenting MPs - although, for some reason, they missed the names of 14 Labour members - and to its shame, the increasingly downmarket and desperate Telegraph meekly followed the Mail, telling any of its readers still listening of “The 89 MPs who showed contempt for referendum voters”. For the press, Gina Miller’s security detail was no bar to further incitement.
But perhaps, especially given what happened to Labour’s Jo Cox in the weeks leading up to the referendum, the political parties, even those on the right, would exercise a little more restraint, show a better example to their followers? You wish: the Tories were having none of it. For the party of Government, having a few more Labour MPs roughed up, or even worse, was just part of the jolly good sport of politics.
Thus it was that Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith was targeted by the Tory HQ Twitter account: “.@JeffSmithetc won’t respect referendum result - Labour are out of touch with ordinary working people #BrexitDebate”. This targeting was done even though Smith had voted FOR the Article 50 timetable. There was no conceivable excuse for the Tories to go after him - and he was not the only Labour MP they went after.
Although the hand behind the @CCHQPress Twitter feed appears to have deleted many of the offending Tweets, demonstrating that the Tories are of less than perfect courage, a screen shot taken at the time shows that Roberta Blackman Woods (City of Durham), Wes Streeting (Ilford North), Owen Smith (Pontypridd), Lucy Powell (Manchester Central), Alison McGovern (Wirral South), Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) and Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham Ladywood) were similarly targeted, among others.
None of those MPs voted against the Article 50 timetable, either. So unlike the hacks at the Mail, Sun and Telegraph, the creeps at Tory HQ don’t have the “they defied the will of the people” excuse to fall back on. This is clear and premeditated incitement to hatred on the basis of no discernible evidence, and the Prime Minister’s office should repudiate it.
Using the Brexit debate to incite the mob against the opposition is beyond the pale. One can only imagine the sick mindset of those in the Tory HQ bunker right now.