Harassment and Intimidation of Parliamentary Candidates in the United Kingdom

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Thursday 6 April 2023

Collignon, Sofia, and Wolfgang Rüdig. 2020. The Political Quarterly 91 (2): 422–29. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-923x.12855.

The article examines the peacefulness of British elections by reviewing the volume, nature and methods of harassment towards British MPs. Around 4/10 candidates reported repeated harassment throughout the 2015 electoral campaign. The different varieties of harassment ranged from improper communications (often through social media or e-Mail) to people loitering in front of homes or sexual harassment. Throughout all these forms of harassment, the common pattern was a higher frequency of abuse for female, young and leading candidates, especially amongst the Conservative party. Multiple forms of harassment mentioned above come together in affecting candidates physically and emotionally, sometimes even leading to them stepping down from their jobs. Aggression is becoming a prominent part of electoral politics in Britain, further increased by polarisation through Brexit. A conclusion taken by the author is that being able to stand for office in elections with guaranteed personal safety, no matter what political opinions are expressed, is not guaranteed in current British politics. The peacefulness of elections and of the electoral atmosphere is greatly undermined by aggressiveness towards political candidates. Furthermore, the patterns of aggression target more vulnerable groups, undermining an inclusive political discussion.

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