‘We don’t have bodyguards, we are completely vulnerable’: female MPs on the fears they face

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‘We don’t have bodyguards, we are completely vulnerable’: female MPs on the fears they face

Paula Sherriff tries her best not to be paranoid, or let it get in the way of her work as an MP. But, ever since her friend and colleague Jo Cox was murdered in the street a few miles from where Sherriff lives, she has found threats of violence against her hard to shrug off. Her house bristles with security devices, she is buying personal alarms for her staff and, when we speak, she is about to discuss the latest threat with police. She doesn’t advertise her movements in advance if possible because “there’s always the chance someone could be waiting outside for you. We don’t have bodyguards, we don’t wear flak jackets; we are completely vulnerable. I sometimes go to events on my own and it’s a case now of looking over your shoulder.” 

It would be less surprising were she employed in some covert, high-risk occupation. But Sherriff is the Labour MP for Dewsbury in West Yorkshire and this is just life for a shocking number of backbenchers now – especially if they are staunch feminists (Sherriff led the campaign to scrap VAT on sanitary products), EU remainers or sufficiently supportive of immigration to provoke the far right. This constant background hum of rage is their new normal. 

“I had a woman send me a message saying that if she had another leaflet put through the door with my face on it, she was going to get her dog to shit on it and – well, I can’t remember if she was going to rub it in my face or send it back to me,” says Sherriff, recalling the general election campaign in June. “There are a number of horrible local social media sites; one mocked up a picture of me as a used sanitary towel in reaction to the campaign I ran about tax.” 

The “I know where you live” letters are both unsettling and commonplace for her female colleagues. “Nearly every single one is involved in some sort of police case, restraining order, having to go to court or waiting for their homes to be secured.”

Click here to read the full article published The Guardian on 25 July 2017.