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Sign up to code of conduct to help protect MPs – Jo Cox Foundation

The foundation added that intimidation was a ‘cross-party issue’

Jo Cox (Jo Cox Foundation)
Jo Cox (Jo Cox Foundation)

By Emma Bowden, PA

The Jo Cox Foundation has called on all political parties to agree to a code of conduct to help protect MPs after a week in which Boris Johnson was accused over his use of “violent” language in the Commons.

There was uproar on Wednesday as the Prime Minister rejected calls to temper his “inflammatory” language, dismissing a complaint by one Labour MP that his rhetoric risked provoking attacks on politicians as “humbug”.

He further angered the opposition by suggesting the best way to honour murdered parliamentarian Jo Cox – an ardent Remainer – was to “get Brexit done”.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

The foundation set up in Mrs Cox’s memory said it had been working with the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) to develop a Joint Standard of Conduct to help protect election candidates.

It will set out the minimum standards of behaviour expected from all political party members, the foundation said, aiming to reach an agreement before any upcoming general election.

The foundation added intimidation was a “cross-party issue” which poses a threat to the “diversity, integrity, and vibrancy of representative democracy” in the UK.

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Brendan Cox, husband of murdered MP Jo Cox (Danny Lawson/PA)

Brendan Cox, Mrs Cox’s widow, said he was “shocked” by the type of language used in the Commons debate after Parliament was recalled on Wednesday.

He urged all sides to moderate their language, telling the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: “There is a willingness to jump out and decry the other side when they use language like ‘surrender’ or ‘traitor’ or ‘betrayal’.

“And I think that is inflammatory language, but I think as inflammatory are those people who have used the language of it being a ‘coup’ and a ‘dictatorship’. I think both of those approaches are unacceptable.”

The foundation said the Standard will actively promote and support the Nolan Principles of Public Life – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

It has been developed using recommendations made in the CSPL’s 2017 report on intimidation in public life and a review of existing internal party codes.

CSPL chairman Lord Evans said he was “delighted” by the progress in tackling intimidation, adding: “Standards in public life have rarely been more in the spotlight than they are today.”

Catherine Anderson, chief executive of The Jo Cox Foundation, said: “Jo’s murder in 2016 is a constant reminder to us that the threat of violence and intimidation towards MPs, candidates or anybody else in public life can never be acceptable.

“We all value vigorous political debate and freedom of speech but that should not extend to abusive behaviour designed to intimidate and silence people. It threatens our democracy itself.”

PA

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