The brutal murder of David Amess MP was a viciously personal act, but it was also an attack on democracy, says Leyton and Wanstead MP John Cryer, who believes technology giants are creating hostility
MPs must be accountable to their constituents through things like public meetings, surgeries, coffee mornings and local forums. We must not allow blood-witted maniacs to win and undermine our democracy.
I often disagree viscerally with those in other political parties. That does not mean my opponents are evil, just that I happen to believe they are wrong. I spoke about this and about David Amess in the recent parliamentary tributes to him.
Most of the country is familiar with the murder of Jo Cox in 2016 and the attempt on Stephen Timms’s life in 2010. Considerably less well known is that in 2000, Andrew Pennington, a caseworker for Nigel Jones MP, was killed by a constituent with a sword.
After Jo’s death, there was some consensus that politics had become personal and abusive and that situation had to change. The consensus was fleeting, and within a short time, normal service was resumed. Much of the poison emanates not from the mainstream media but from the online world. It is very clear that some of the technology giants have deliberately adopted an approach which inflames any given situation and creates hostility. The Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, recently gave very compelling evidence that her former employer deliberately fostered extremism and hatred in the headlong pursuit of profit.
I am not arguing that technology companies are directly responsible for violence but they certainly foster an atmosphere where violence becomes more acceptable. ‘Lone wolf’ terrorists – to use a phrase I detest – do not exist; someone, somewhere is responsible for grooming and exploiting the young men – and they usually are men – who commit monstrous acts. The technology giants make this easier. Personally, I would like to see Mark Zuckerberg and others standing at the bar of the House of Commons accounting for their contemptible actions but, more importantly, there should be criminal sanctions brought to bear on their activities.
Long-standing residents may remember that in 1965 there was a by-election in the old Leyton seat, during which the Nazi Colin Jordan tried to sow hatred and fear around the issue of migration. It reached a high point when Jordan led 100 Nazis into a public meeting in Leyton Town Hall. That poisonous intervention took weeks to plan and organise. Fascist sympathisers could live for years in neighbouring streets without knowing of one another’s existence. Today, extremists in Leyton and Wanstead, or anywhere else, could be in touch and start organising in minutes.
I wait to hear what measures the government and the Speaker of the House of Commons intend to introduce to protect MPs.
To contact John Cryer MP, visit johncryermp.co.uk or call 020 8989 5249