General election candidates have been issued today with police guidance on keeping safe on the campaign trail, and how to respond if they experience abuse or intimidation.
The guide, included in official candidate packs issued by the Cabinet Office, advises people not to canvass alone and make sure someone knows where they are canvassing.
It urges them to make sure they go out with a fully-charged mobile phone and to “keep records of any intimidating behaviour or abuse; and report intimidation or abuse to internet service providers and social media platforms.”
It comes as several female MPs resigned over fears for their safety. Others have said the work they do has been limited – some MPs are advised not to attend public hustings on safety grounds – or due to the election timing.
Tara O’Reilly, 24, who works for Labour MP Clive Efford, told the Independent: “I’m put off campaigning in the winter months because I’m already worried about being harassed whenever I’m out alone in the dark, but to knock on strangers doors and walk around areas I don’t know so well when abuse towards those in politics is so high? I’d rather stay home than risk my safety.”
The National Police Chiefs’ Council, which developed the guidance, is telling candidates to be aware of ‘red flags’ and contact the local police (dial 999) if they see any of the signs that behaviour could be escalating.
These include threat of imminent violence, fixated ideas, access to weapons or if the person releases personal information about you not already in the public domain.
The guidance asks candidates to “think very carefully about the language they are using so that they are not inflaming the already highly-charged environment.”
Martin Hewitt, Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “We’re not going to tell anyone to limit their campaigning or enthusiasm in any way – but we are taking precautionary steps ourselves and providing sensible advice to candidates.”
20 female MPs have so far stepped down ahead of the election on 12 December. They include the Conservative MP Nicky Morgan, who spoke of “the clear impact on my family and the other sacrifices involved in, and the abuse for, doing the job of a modern MP”.
Liberal Democrat MP Heidi Allen also quit in October after saying she had received death threats because of her stance on Brexit sent by 51-year-old Jarod Kirkman. He was later jailed for 42 weeks.
In addition to the guidance, a national unit established after the tragic murder of Jo Cox, will be providing its expertise to local forces.
Mr Hewitt said police will also offer security briefings for candidates. “As with every election, police will work to prevent and detect crime, and enable the democratic process to proceed unhindered. We take this role extremely seriously.”
Police are telling candidates not to go out alone to canvas and to carry a fully charged mobile phone with them at all times.
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