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Charities, trade unions and community groups urge politicians to stop hate speech ahead of EU elections

TUC, Amnesty International and Stonewall among groups calling on political parties to act against candidates who 'sow hatred and division'

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Friday 10 May 2019 00:12 BST
David Lidington confirms UK will hold European elections later this month, as MPs run out of time to agree a Brexit deal

Charities, trade unions and community groups have taken the unprecedented step of urging politicians to eradicate hate speech in the run-up to European Parliament elections later this month.

More than 30 organisations, including the TUC, Amnesty International and Stonewall, issued the joint plea ahead of the 23 May polls.

In a joint statement, they said it was "essential that these elections are not abused to sow hatred and division" and called on political parties to "take all necessary steps" to prevent unlawful speech.

They also said local councils should publicly correct any untrue claims made by candidates that could fuel division.

They said: "We are calling upon political parties to take all necessary steps during the European parliament election campaign to eradicate hate speech and false claims that divide our communities.

"Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are a fundamental part of our democracy. However, they must not be used to incite harm against others.

"It is not acceptable to blame different races, ethnic or religious groups, migrant workers or refugees for Britain’s problems."

The statement said guidance issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) makes clear that local councils should play a part in "setting the record straight" if election candidates make false claims.

It added: "Elections are an important time to discuss the issues facing society. Whatever the outcome it is essential that these elections are not abused to sow hatred and division. On this, we must stand together."

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “There is no room for racism, misogyny or any other form of hatred during - or after - these elections. We hope politicians and civic society will join us in calling for a respectful campaign.”

Recent polls suggest that Nigel Farage's Brexit Party is vying with Labour to win the elections.

A ComRes survey published on Wednesday suggested Jeremy Corbyn's party is on course to win 27 per cent of the vote, narrowly ahead of the Brexit Party on 26 per cent.

The Conservatives are a long way behind on 14 per cent, while the Liberal Democrats are polling at 11 per cent and Change UK at 8 per cent.

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