Brexit: ‘Nazi’ slur dangerous for democracy – leader comment

Anna Soubry is a leading pro-Remain Conservative MP (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Anna Soubry is a leading pro-Remain Conservative MP (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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The use of terms like Nazi, fascist and traitor has become too common amid the Brexit debate.

It’s easy to dismiss the small group of people who chanted “Anna Soubry is a Nazi” while the pro-Remain Conservative MP attempted to give an interview to the BBC outside the Westminster Parliament as nothing more than a lunatic fringe.

However that and other such vile slurs have become all-too-common across the political spectrum in Britain today.

To some, it may seem like a joke or simply part of the “rough and tumble” of politics, but it was clear from the reaction of other politicians that they failed to see the funny side. And that should be understandable to everyone, given the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a right-wing extremist in 2016.

Soubry tweeted that MPs were “apparently” meant to accept such treatment “as part of the democratic process”, but added that she failed to see “why journalists and technicians should be subjected to the same abuse and intimidation as the police stand by and do nothing”. She added that after the interview she had been jostled by people who she said had tried to stop her going back into Parliament.

READ MORE: Brian Monteith: Deepening division over Brexit can’t become the new norm

Angus Robertson, the former SNP leader at Westminster, was moved to express his condemnation of the “appalling” harassment of a political opponent. “Personally I think that Anna Soubry is extremely brave and principled. Notwithstanding our political differences, she has my complete respect and admiration on Brexit,” he tweeted.

The Labour peer Andrew Adonis has also written to the head of the Metropolitan Police complaining about the lack of action by police at the scene, adding that the journalist Owen Jones and anti-Brexit campaigner Femi Uluwole had also been “verbally attacked and harassed”. His letter, which mentioned Cox’s murder, urged Commissioner Cressida Dick to advise officers “they must not allow thugs to seek to use intimidation to close down debate”.

Passions are clearly running high in these crucial days for the Brexit process. And that makes it important for all sides to use temperate language to avoid inflaming those passions.

Whether MPs are right-wing, no-deal Brexiteers or left-wing Remainers, they are not “Nazis”, fascists, “traitors” or “enemies of the people”.

By putting opponents outside the bounds of decency, the use of such terms invites violence that is the antithesis of the whole idea of democracy.

READ MORE: Theresa May: UK in ‘uncharted territory’ if Tory MPs don’t back Brexit plan