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Violence against MPs ‘worth it’ to secure desired Brexit outcome – survey

Researchers said they were ‘genuinely shocked’ at the findings.

Tributes to murdered Labour MP Jo Cox PA)
Tributes to murdered Labour MP Jo Cox PA)

By Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor

A majority of voters believe violence against MPs is a “price worth paying” to get their way on Brexit, an academic survey has found.

The report by researchers from Cardiff University and the University of Edinburgh found both Leavers and Remainers believed violence could be “worth it” if it meant their views prevailed.

The survey’s co-director Professor Richard Wyn Jones said he was “genuinely shocked” at the findings.

The survey, based on polling by YouGov, found 71% of Leave voters in England, 60% in Scotland and 70% in Wales believed violence towards MPs was a “price worth paying” for Brexit.

It’s not often that one finds oneself shaken by research findings, but in this case it’s hard to not be genuinely shocked Prof Richard Wyn Jones

Among Remain voters, 58% in England, 53% in Scotland and 56% in Wales considered violence towards MPs was a “price worth paying” for Britain to stay in the EU.

Voters on both sides said protests in which members of the public are badly injured were a “price worth paying” to secure their desired outcome.

Among Leavers, it was 69% in England, 62% in Scotland and 70% in Wales. On the Remain side, it was 57% in England, 56% in Scotland and 57% in Wales.

The findings come among concerns among MPs on both sides of the debate that they are facing rising levels of abuse and threats from members of the public.

Professor Wyn Jones said: “It’s not often that one finds oneself shaken by research findings, but in this case it’s hard to not be genuinely shocked – not only by the fact that so many think that violence is a likely consequence of Brexit, but that so many on either side of the Brexit divide seem to think that such events might be ‘worth it’ in order to secure their preferred outcome.

“Given that we appear to be on the brink of another general election in which further polarisation could be a deliberate campaign strategy for some parties, these findings should give all of us pause for thought and underline the importance of responsible and measured debate.”

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden said: “We must be crystal clear that violence and threatening behaviour is completely unacceptable in our society.

“When robust debate mutates into intimidation and threats, a line is crossed, and our democracy will be damaged if those in public life are forced to change the way they interact with the public.

“We have taken steps to tackle abuse and intimidation and keep those standing in elections safe but know there is more to do.”

– YouGov surveyed 1,594 adults aged 18 and over in England, 1,503 in Wales, and 1,006 in Scotland. Polling was conducted online between September 27 and October 3.

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