Comment writer Hannah Lay argues that the recent hateful comments regarding Theresa May are inexcusable
Several weekends ago, Theresa May was subjected to negative comments in an article in The Sunday Times. An unnamed former minister was quoted as saying ‘The moment is coming when the knife gets heated, stuck in her front and twisted. She’ll be dead soon’. As well as this, the BBC reported that ‘The PM was also told to “bring her own noose” to a meeting later this week’. Theresa May is a highly controversial individual and her name can easily spark a debate amongst many people. However, love her or loathe her, language like this is vile and unnecessary. It is irrelevant whether you agree with her policies or if you support how she is negotiating Brexit, these comments attack May on a personal level which is unacceptable.
As Prime Minister of the UK, it falls under Theresa May’s remit to accept that some people will disagree with her politics and the way she approaches things. As Home Secretary, May was frequently criticised in the media for her policies, so she’ll be well used to the criticism and negative comments by now. However, telling the PM to bring a noose to her next meeting takes negativity to an entirely new level. I would claim that this language is abusive, and although May is used to dealing with such comments, she should not have to.
There has been widespread criticism of these comments across the media and within parliament, however, formal action is yet to be taken against those who made them. Many have called on those responsible to be kicked out of the party but thus far this has not occurred. This is indefensible. The only way to eradicate such hateful comments is to take speedy action against them. Many politicians have spoken out about the comments, but this is not enough. There should be formal action to deter this happening again.
Now, this incident is still relatively fresh so there may still be action taken against those responsible, but I would argue if this occurs now it will be too late. If action was taken now it would be because of significant pressure to do so, if those in charge need this pressure to act to make changes, then this says something about the system. It should not take immense media pressure to condemn remarks such as those reported over the weekend.
An example has been made of the MP Mark Francois who, when speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, said the language was unacceptable but refused to completely condemn those responsible. He even tried to justify it by saying ‘the problem is that there is a lot of frustration on the backbenches at the moment, both among Leavers and Remainers, at the general state of play’ as if this frustration is an excuse for hateful comments. Again, this boils down to the argument that people think they can make comments about Theresa May just because she is a public figure, which is not true.
There have been numerous links made between these hateful comments and the murder of Jo Cox. Although clearly, the murder of Jo Cox is a far more serious issue, some have claimed these incidents are reminiscent of the hateful, violent politics we have witnessed before. Whittam, the prosecutor for the case, told the jury ‘It was a premeditated murder for a political and/or ideological cause‘, and therefore the murderer resorted to violence against her to resolve his issues. This is what we witnessed over that weekend; an unknown minister decided he was not happy with how May was approaching Brexit and decided personal violent language against her was the way to resolve this.
The fact that an incident like this has occurred and has not yet been formally condemned is troubling. Personal attacks against anyone, particularly ones of such a violent nature will never be okay. It is acceptable to disagree with policies, that’s the point of our political system, it leaves room for disagreement. However, as soon as comments become violent and personal, a line should be drawn and those responsible should be held accountable.