Sir Desmond Swayne: Online abuse contributor to MP exodus

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Sir Desmond Swayne has admitted he does not read messages sent to him on social media in order to protect his "sanity".

The Conservative MP said he thought online abuse could be a contributor to 58 MPs announcing they will step down ahead of the December 12 general election.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with the robustness of our political discourse and debate in Parliament. I'm all for maintaining that - it's the social media," he told talkRADIO's Julia Hartley-Brewer.

"I simply do not read any notifications on social media, which is a shame, because I'm not using it as a means of allowing my constituents to communicate with me because it's just so toxic. It's better not to read it at all."

Sir Desmond, the MP for New Forest West, said he preferred constituents to contact him via a written letter or an email.

"If they send me social media messages I'm not going to read them simply for the sake of my own sanity," he added.

"It's a necessary discipline."

Among the 58 MPs stepping down at the next election is Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, who cited "abuse" as one of the reasons for her departure.

And Labour MP Jim McMahon has called for better legal support for MPs who become the "target of harassment", claiming he was "left wondering" where help can be found.

Sir Desmond continued: "People swear and use language and shout in their own cars in a way they would never do outside.

"Being on your phone and laptop is the same psychology. People just behave very badly."

However, former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said he thought politics had become calmer.

"I found British politics much more violent, troubling in the years back," he told talkRADIO.

"Maybe I’m fortunate, and maybe because I’m a man, but for whatever reason I haven’t found the last few years intimidating and alarming."

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