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Bercow calls emergency meeting over ‘inflammatory language’ in Commons

Boris Johnson is not expected to attend talks despite concerns raised by MPs

Vincent Wood
Sunday 29 September 2019 08:14 BST
Boris Johnson says to stop using the term 'surrender' would be 'impoverishing the language'

John Bercow is expected to convene an emergency meeting of party leaders to stem the use of inflammatory language in Westminster amid growing concerns over the safety of MPs.

The speaker of the house will meet with officials from each party in a bid to diffuse growing tensions over language used in debates, The Observer reports, as well as potential security measures required for parliament.

It comes after the prime minister described concerns his language was spurring on division between parliament and the people as “humbug”, a response to Paula Sheriff’s warning that death threats received by MP’s “often quote his words – ‘surrender act’, ‘betrayal,’ ‘traitor’”.

Mr Johnson is not expected to attend, instead electing to stay at the Conservative Party Conference while sending a minister to take part in his place.

Other attendees are expected to include representatives from each of the major Westminster factions, including Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson. Liz Saville Roberts, who oversees Plaid Cymru in the Commons, told the paper: “It is deeply depressing that it has come to this.

“Politicians on all sides of the divide have to raise the tone of debate. There is, however, a difference between passionate debate and the cynical use of focus-group tested phrases to whip up anger and division.

Brexit has released a deeply dark side of our politics, elements of which have found its way into No 10. I hope this meeting will give politicians from all parties, and particularly the prime minister, the opportunity to think again.”

Politicians have grown increasingly concerned over death threats sent to the House of Commons – including one recently sent to MP Jess Phillips that read: “It was rather prophetic that Boris Johnson should say ‘I would rather be found dead in a ditch’. That is what will happen to those who do not deliver Brexit”.

And the prime minister was repeatedly asked by MPs to tone down his “inflammatory” language which they said was fuelling abuse and death threats against parliamentarians when he returned to the Commons last week.

He also caused outrage among politicians when he told friends of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox that the best way to honour her memory was to “deliver Brexit”.

Ms Cox’s husband Brendan later tweeted that he felt “a bit sick” at his wife’s name “being used in this way”.

He said: “The best way to honour Jo is for all of us (no matter our views) to stand up for what we believe in, passionately and with determination. But never to demonise the other side and always hold onto what we have in common.”

Anna Soubry, leader of the Independent Group for Change, added that the language used in the Commons had reduced her to tears and forced other MPs to leave the Palace of Westminster, “such has been the distress”.

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