After accusing 1 million(+) marching Remainers of being a "lynch mob" Sarah Vine calls for an end to violent and aggressive rhetoric:
'I hope you drop dead in the next 100 yards': That's what a Remain marcher jeered at my husband. This rage on both sides has to end, writes SARAH VINE
With every passing day, the Brexit shambles more and more seems to resemble a half-built Ikea daybed.
It looks nothing like as enticing as it did in the showroom, none of the bits fit together as they are supposed to — and the chances of getting a good night’s sleep any time soon are distinctly unlikely.
Joking apart, whether you voted Leave or Remain, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that Brexit is driving us all bonkers.
It’s got to the point where most people don’t care what happens — they just want it to stop. And who can blame them?
I sincerely hope Parliament manages to do this, either by approving Theresa May’s deal at the third attempt or by some other means. But whatever the final outcome, one thing is certain: we have to change the tone of our national conversation.
The process of trying to exit the EU has done more than simply underline the intransigence of Brussels; it has also exposed fundamental flaws in our own political system.
In particular, the way certain individuals may have seen Brexit as an opportunity to further their own ambitions, to manipulate perceptions, to capitalise on the difficulties of obtaining a deal, to attack rivals and thrust themselves into the limelight.
It’s understandable the voters should feel frustrated. But there is something about the level of vitriol our politicians face that goes beyond an expression of dissatisfaction — and shades into something more sinister.
There are examples on both sides, from the shocking case of Remain MP Anna Soubry, who can no longer return home because of death threats, to the experience of my husband Michael Gove this weekend when, walking back from a meeting in London, he came across a People’s Vote marcher.
‘I hope you drop dead in the next 100 yards,’ the man shouted, to the delight of his companions. And when I then observed, in a tweet, that any Leave voter was at risk of being ‘lynched’ by furious Remainers, I was subject to so much online abuse I was forced to turn off my notifications. Ironically, I was reported to Twitter for using offensive language.
My husband took his dose of Remainer abuse cheerfully enough. After ten years in frontline politics, he accepts it as part of the job. But it’s undoubtedly getting worse.
Death threats and intimidation are now the norm. And while very few people ever follow through, it only takes one nutter. None of us will ever forget MP Jo Cox, whose murder remains one of the great tragedies of our times.
But even if no blow is ever struck, the long-term repercussions of such a siege mentality can leave lasting wounds. I know how being the object of constant low-level hostility can deplete one’s capacity for resilience and ultimately lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
And if I feel like that, God knows how someone like Labour MP Luciana Berger — who has suffered a torrent of anti-Semitic abuse — or Anna Soubry cope.
There’s no doubt this rise in abusive behaviour is part of the reason Parliament is so paralysed by Brexit. They are terrified of what might happen to them if they get it wrong.
The result is a House of Commons that is exhausted at a time when, more than ever, we need MPs to be fighting fit and focused 100 per cent on the job in hand.
Of course, politics is by its nature passionate, and no modern debate has elicited quite as much passion as Brexit. But it’s one thing to care deeply about something; quite another to use it as a legitimate excuse for abuse, hatred and the threat of violence.
The sooner this chapter in our history draws to a close, the sooner we can begin to repair the rifts and divisions.
I just hope that it’s not too late.