Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

ECHO COLUMN: Our words have consequences

You can read Sharon's latest Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website


There is no doubt that Brexit has divided some families, our communities and the nation.

The tension has been made all the more worse by the harmful language used by Prime Ministers May and Johnson, whose rhetoric has normalised words such as “betrayal”, “traitor” and “saboteurs”, directed at elected Members of Parliament and the judiciary; crucial pillars upholding our constitution and holding the Government to account on a host of issues, not just Brexit.

Such language has made it into my own inbox, and the inboxes of, mostly female, colleagues.

I am pleased to say that the majority of emails and messages I receive containing harmful language don’t pose a serious threat. Any that do are immediately reported to the police and Parliament’s security team.

However, when trying to work for the best of all of my constituents, whether that is speaking in debates, responding to letters, emails and calls or meeting with ministers, receiving such messages can be daunting, not only for me but for my family, friends and staff too.

No one should feel unsafe in their job, but I know that many MPs do.

The tragic murder of Jo Cox MP and the foiled plot by a neo-Nazi to murder Rosie Cooper MP serve as a reminder that words have serious consequences.

More locally, Billy Charlton - who appeared on the well circulated photograph from the Sunderland count of the EU referendum celebrating the leave result - was found guilty of inciting racial hatred and given a 21-month jail sentence.

It is this kind of behaviour and language that is making our society toxic.

Instead of encouraging debate, hostile language pushes people away from engaging in issues that affect them, leaving only the bullies standing tall.

If we want more women, young, working-class and BME people to engage in politics and current affairs, we must all take a moment to reflect on the consequences of our language.

Is it harmful and intimidating? Is it disenfranchising people from the debate? Could this encourage or influence others to act physically?

We all have a role to play in bridging the divide.

We are all human and our words have consequences.

Sunderland Echo website

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