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Tories launched smear campaign against Diane Abbott, say Labour

MPs will hold a debate on the abuse and intimidation of candidates and the public in UK elections.

The Conservative Party carried out vitriolic personal attacks on election candidates on an industrial scale, Labour has claimed ahead of a debate on the abuse of MPs.

Tories ran a nasty campaign full of smears and untruths about opponents, particularly shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, according to the Opposition.

Millions of pounds were spent on attack adverts on social media in a campaign that could deter future parliamentary hopefuls from entering politics, Labour said.

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Diane Abbott (Victoria Jones/PA)

It also highlighted criticism of the “racially discriminatory” unsuccessful bid made by Tory Zac Goldsmith to become London mayor against Sadiq Khan as well as the suspension of Anne Marie Morris from the Tory party over the use of racist language.

In a letter to Conservative party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin, counterpart Ian Lavery and Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement, called for a zero-tolerance approach to abuse.

They wrote: “The Conservatives’ ran a negative, nasty campaign, propagating personal attacks, smears and untruths, particularly aimed at one of the most prominent women MPs, and indeed the first black woman MP, Diane Abbott.

“Such attacks on politicians, the consequent intimidating and abusive language and threats of violence towards them online, deter many people from entering politics.

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Zac Goldsmith (Yui Mok/PA)

“Parties and politicians have a responsibility to set an example, by treating others with dignity and respect, including those with whom we strongly disagree. The Conservative Party has instead promoted personal attacks as a core component of its national campaign.

“Abuse against candidates on social media is completely unacceptable. The Conservative Party perpetrated this on an industrial scale by spending millions of pounds to post highly personalised and nasty attack adverts on voters’ Facebook timelines without their permission.

“This is not an isolated incident. Last year Zac Goldsmith MP ran an extremely negative, divisive and racially discriminatory campaign against Sadiq Khan. It was described by Sayeeda Warsi, the former Conservative Party co-chairman, as “appalling”.

“Only yesterday it was revealed that Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris used a racist slur while speaking on a panel at the East India Club last week, evidence of the level to which abusive and discriminatory language has been tolerated by the Conservative Party.”

They claimed Labour “fought a positive, hopeful campaign” and insisted that all its MPs ran campaigns based on our policies rather than personal attacks.

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Theresa May (Matt Dunham/PA)

It comes days after Theresa May said she had been shocked by the stories of harassment she had heard from colleagues in recent weeks.

In a clear swipe at Jeremy Corbyn, who has faced repeated criticism that he has failed to explicitly condemn attacks made by his supporters, the Prime Minister called on party leaders to speak out.

MPs from across the spectrum have told of the abuse they have suffered in recent years, including South East Cornwall Tory MP Sheryll Murray who faced comments like “burn the witch” during the election campaign.

Conservative MP Simon Hart has secured a debate in Westminster Hall on Wednesday afternoon on the abuse and intimidation of candidates and the public in UK elections.

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