Rise in abuse from online trolls after Brexit referendum; says Yasmin Qureshi

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MANCHESTER: Labour Member of Parliament Barrister Yasmin Qureshi says she feels sorry for the “sad, unhappy souls” that send her abuse on a daily basis, but feels they have been emboldened by Brexit.

Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi is vocal about the abuse directed at her from the public in the form of letters, emails and social media comments, with one man even being jailed for his online campaign of harassment against the MP.

The MP has spoken out again after a spike in the number of crimes reported in Parliament, revealed by a Sky News investigation, encouraging other MPs to come forward and share their stories of being abused by the public.

Ms Qureshi said: “MPs need to speak up about what they have been going through, this is only been coming to light because a man has been convicted but it has been years of abuse. “I think people know it is a big problem but more MPs need to come out about it.”

Ms Qureshi read out an email sent to her just yesterday morning, which said “you deserve all the abuse you get”, but says she will never bow to the bullies. Ms Qureshi said: “Having been a criminal law practising barrister for so many years, I’ve toughened up a lot, and meeting people on a daily basis and listening to their concerns makes you quite strong. “For me it is an honour to be an MP — I would never let the bullies get to me. They are not representative of the country.

“Sometimes I feel sorry for them, clearly they have got a lot of issues going on in their lives. Why would any reasonable person take their time to abuse people? They must be sad, unhappy souls.”

The bullying has become more extreme since Brexit, with people also being encouraged to hurl abuse at MPs thanks to the anonymity they can hide behind on social media, says the MP.

“There was an increase after the referendum,” said Ms Qureshi. There has been a group of people who already thought it was acceptable, then after the referendum they felt emboldened and like it was respectable to send this abuse.”

To solve the crisis, Ms Qureshi feels that “haters” need to recognise that those in parliament are people too.

She said: “People need to learn that MPs are human beings and are not any different to anyone else. “We are not made of ice. If anyone is being abused and is upset about it, it’s not even a sign of weakness, it’s just human nature.”