Elections watchdog says abusive campaigners could be banned from voting
Removing people from the register of voters “could act as a deterrent to abusive behaviour”, the Electoral Commission said
Ballot box: Picture credit - PA
Militant campaigners who abuse MPs could be banned from voting, according to the electoral watchdog.
Hard-line consequences such as removing people from the register of voters “could act as a deterrent to abusive behaviour”, the Electoral Commission said.
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It comes after MPs and candidates faced an unprecedented level of abuse from hate-filled activists in the run-up to the 2017 snap election.
Some 87 per cent of MPs said they faced abuse and intimidation at the hands of campaigners, with half saying it was the worst election period they had experienced, according to a BBC study.
One female Tory MP said she was "threatened to be put in a coffin", while a female Labour MP said: "Does a man coming into my office threatening to bomb it count?"
Others talked of intimidation by large crowds at hustings, misogynistic and sexual abuse and one who said he had a “bottle smashed on me”.
In its own study, the Electoral Commission said just 13 of the 780 candidates who responded said they or someone they knew had faced intimidation.
They included two who had received threats at their own homes, alongside others who had campaign material vandalised or faced false allegations over the internet.
One even said a rival candidate was rude and aggressive to them at the local count.
In an evidence submission to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the watchdog urged the Government to implement Law Commission proposals to update and consolidate electoral laws.
It said reform would offer a chance to mull whether tougher rules could be imposed to tackle abusive campaigning, or whether existing criminal law is sufficient.
It noted that some electoral laws have “special consequences” such as invalidating results or leaving candidates disqualified from standing in elections and voting for specified periods.
And it added: “It may be that similar special electoral consequences could act as a deterrent to abusive behaviour in relation to candidates and campaigners.”
A spokesperson for Theresa May said this morning: "The abuse and intimidation of candidates during the campaign was unacceptable.
"[The Prime Minister] asked for the Committee on Standards in Public Life to have a look at that. There's a clear difference between legitimate scrutiny and conduct that is fuelled by hate and personal abuse."
Responding to the BBC survey, a House of Commons spokesperson said: "The increasing levels of abuse and threats made against Members of Parliament, their staff and families, are unacceptable.
"No one should have to endure this as 'part of the job', and we take this problem extremely seriously."
A recent study found Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott received ten times as much abuse as any other MP in the run up to the June general election.
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