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Express & Star comment: Extra security is sad sign of our times

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

It comes to something when councillors require security guards to prevent them from being attacked.

Sandwell Council

Yet that, sadly, is the situation in Sandwell, where the borough council saw fit to take out a court injunction to protect two elected members.

If that wasn’t shocking enough, a recent meeting of the authority’s standards committee heard one councillor was forced off the road in her car, while others were said to have suffered face-to-face abuse and intimidation.

This is by no means a problem that is confined to Sandwell.

Elected members, who all have an important job to do to represent their wards, should never have to deal with any forms of abuse.

Unfortunately, political discourse has taken a nasty turn in this country, and threats are now commonplace, with many people feeling they can say almost anything they please with impunity. The level of online abuse is particularly worrying.

Pathetic, insipid individuals who hide behind a keyboard think nothing of using social media or a blog post to make the most vicious comments about others.

In many cases such behaviour probably brings some form of sick pleasure to their sad lives, but the impact on their victims should not be underestimated.

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There is a growing body of evidence that an undercurrent of extremism is sweeping across the globe.

When mosques are attacked in Birmingham, and MPs receive so much hate mail that it becomes ‘the norm’, it is clear something is wrong.

The advent of social media has undoubtedly ramped up the levels of hatred and abuse faced by public figures.

Taking all of this into consideration, it is easy to see why Theresa May’s Downing Street bid to publicly blame MPs for the country’s Brexit crisis has been viewed as a questionable move.

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From a political point of view, it seems a bizarre tactic to criticise the very people she is relying on to get her twice-rejected deal through Parliament.

Furthermore, by holding Parliament responsible, the Prime Minister has stirred up anger amongst sections of an already frustrated public.

While that may not have been the intention, it has certainly been widely interpreted in that way.

This is a time for cool heads, not finger pointing and recriminations.

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