Labour Party accuses Conservative Party of "vitriolic personal attacks" in General Election and calls for action
Ahead of today's debate in Westminster Hall on personal abuse during the General Election, Chair of the Labour Party Ian Lavery MP and Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement Cat Smith MP have written to Conservative Party Chair Sir Patrick McLoughlin MP (letter below).
In the letter, Lavery and Smith raise their “deep dismay and concern at the vitriolic personal attacks" financed and conducted as part of the Conservatives' national General Election campaign, and call for the Party to take action to end such abuse in the future.
The letter to Sir Patrick McLoughlin MP
Dear Sir Patrick,
We are writing to express our dismay and deep concern at the vitriolic personal attacks that defined the Conservative Party’s election campaign.
The Conservatives’ ran a negative, nasty campaign, propagating personal attacks, smears and untruths, particularly aimed at one of the most prominent women MPs, and indeed the first black woman MP, Diane Abbott.
Such attacks on politicians, the consequent intimidating and abusive language and threats of violence towards them online, deter many people from entering politics.
Parties and politicians have a responsibility to set an example, by treating others with dignity and respect, including those with whom we strongly disagree. The Conservative Party has instead promoted personal attacks as a core component of its national campaign.
Abuse against candidates on social media is completely unacceptable. The Conservative Party perpetrated this on an industrial scale by spending millions of pounds to post highly personalised and nasty attack adverts on voters' Facebook timelines without their permission.
This is not an isolated incident. Last year Zac Goldsmith MP ran an extremely negative, divisive and racially discriminatory campaign against Sadiq Khan. It was described by Sayeeda Warsi, the former Conservative Party Co-Chairperson, as “appalling”.
Only yesterday it was revealed that Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris used a racist slur while speaking on a panel at the East India Club last week, evidence of the level to which abusive and discriminatory language has been tolerated by the Conservative Party.
It has also been reported that Ms Morris’ campaign agent Roger Kendrick said at an election hustings at Newton Abbott’s University Technical College in May 2017 “that the crisis in education was due entirely to non-British born immigrants and their high birth rates”. Has the Conservative Party taken action against Mr Kendrick following this racist statement and if not, why not?
There will be a debate in Westminster Hall tomorrow about abusive language and behaviour during the General Election. It is important that Parliament discuss unacceptable behaviour towards candidates from all parties, disproportionately faced by women candidates and candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds. But the Conservative Party must also take responsibility for the attacks financed and conducted as part of their national campaign.
Labour, in contrast, fought a positive, hopeful campaign based on policies to transform Britain for the many not the few. Jeremy Corbyn has always said “he doesn’t do personal” and insisted that all Labour MPs run positive campaigns based on our policies and the Conservative Party’s record, rather than peddling attacks on individuals.
We request that, as Chair of the Conservative Party, you ensure your Party follows tomorrow’s debate with clear action, by implementing a zero-tolerance approach to abuse, discrimination and intimidation within your Party, and ensuring that future Conservative election campaigns do not depend upon highly personal attacks towards your opponents.
Ian Lavery MP
Labour Party Chair and National Campaign Co-Coordinator
Cat Smith MP
Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs
Sent by email from the Labour Party, promoted by Iain McNicol on behalf of The Labour Party, both at Southside, 105 Victoria