Alison Rowat: The President is right, the political conversation needs to be gentler

WITH a fortnight before the world came to Glasgow to talk about climate change, it was reasonable to assume that Sunday’s shows would take a more global look at politics this week.

Then on Friday a tragedy occurred closer to home with the murder of MP Sir David Amess. With that, attention shifted to the safety of politicians and the general temperature of political discourse in the UK today.

“There are few phrases used more often and casually than ‘This is an attack on democracy,’” said Andrew Marr in his introduction. “But this week, that’s exactly what it was.”

Sky News’s Trevor Phillips interviewed Home Secretary Priti Patel on Sunday. The minister was pictured in the Sunday papers paying tribute to Sir David in her constituency of Southend West, alongside the Prime Minister, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer and House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Ms Patel said MPs are part of the “fabric, the DNA of society, of our democracy,” while acknowledging that a lot has changed.

The murder of MP Jo Cox in 2016, and other incidents, prompted MPs to rethink security. “We have all changed the way we work because of changing concerns, threats in society.”

But she added: “This should never sever the link between an elected representative and his democratic role, his responsibility and his duty to the people who elected him.”

When asked if she would ban anonymity on Twitter as a way to fight online abuse, she replied, “I want us to look at everything. We can’t go on like this.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said the difficulty with a blanket ban on anonymity was that it risked exposing whistleblowers, pro-democracy activists and others.

The dangers facing some MPs were described by Tory Romford MP Andrew Rosindell. He told Phillips that his office had been arsoned, his car had been smashed, and someone had attempted to break into his house.

“I’ve been a member of Parliament for 20 years, and during that time I see a lot more mean people than ever before, and they’re ready to say and do things that I never thought possible in this country. We all need to be really aware and keep our minds about ourselves. ”

Marr asked Ms Nandy if she felt safe working in her constituency. “No, not really,” said the MP for Wigan.

The response to MPs’ security concerns has been “far too uneven”, she added. “We cannot afford to go into a place where we are all trying to outdo ourselves on the risks that we are willing to do this job – an attack on MPs is an attack on democracy because it silences people. people we represent, so we need to take this more seriously.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said protection should be offered to MPs who felt in danger, and that he expected that to happen in the coming days.

Writing in the Observer and the Mail on Sunday, the Speaker of the House of Commons said he did not want to end face-to-face meetings with voters.

“If anything positive is to come out of this terrible latest tragedy, it is that the quality of political discourse has to change,” wrote Sir Lindsay Hoyle. “The conversation needs to be more kind and based on respect. This incident has shown that there is unity across the political divide in favor of democracy. The hatred that motivates these attacks must end.”

Part of the previous program has survived on Marr in the form of talks with Philip Reeker, the US Chargé d’Affaires to the UK, and Andrey Kelin, the Russian Ambassador.

Marr’s mind was on COP26 in Glasgow and who would attend. That’s the question many are asking, including the Queen, who was overheard talking about COP last week as the Welsh Parliament opened. “I still don’t know who is coming,” the Queen said. “No idea. We only know people who don’t come… and it’s really annoying when they talk, but they won’t.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to be among the no-shows.

Ambassador Kelin said that no decision has yet been made on whether or not President Putin will be in Glasgow, which seemed like a diplomatic way of saying ‘no’.

With the two presidents not present, the rally next to the Clyde will be even more diluted.

One president who will certainly be there is Joe Biden, the US ambassador said. Indeed, with Barack Obama also returning his rsvp, that makes two American presidents.

During his meeting with the Russian ambassador, Marr asked about Sarah Rainsford, the BBC’s Moscow correspondent, who was expelled from Russia earlier this year. Border guards told her that she could not enter the country because she was considered a threat to the security of Russia.

According to the ambassador, Rainsford was expelled because Russian journalists in the UK had been “severely mistreated” in that they had been asked to leave a year earlier. Russia expected the move to be overturned, Kelin said, and the BBC reporter was told she could return as soon as the Tass news agency correspondent received her visa to enter. UK.

Times, climates and guest lists can change, but the tit for tat of the Cold War era continues.

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