A few weeks ago on 19th September, Swindon North MP and Minister for Disabled People Health and Work, Justin Tomlinson MP, wrote an article for a column in Swindon’s local paper in which he claimed that the EU was trying to stop food supplies being sent to Northern Ireland from Mainland UK.
A number of other residents of Swindon were very concerned about this, not only because they felt Tomlinson’s claims may have been false and that as a result he was misleading his constituents and the people of Swindon, but also because his comments would encourage the reckless far right elements of the leave campaign into further harassment and intimidation of pro-European campaigners exercising their legitimate right to protest and campaign against Brexit.
Furthermore, as the column is afforded to Tomlinson as a privilege as one of Swindon’s MPs, there was also concern that he may be abusing his privileged position as an MP by making such statements.
Accordingly, those residents complained to both the editor of the local paper and the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner about the article expressing concerns about its accuracy and potentially inflammatory results.
When Tomlinson became aware of this, he sent the following letter to one of the signatories of that complaint, who is also a constituent…
“I understand you are new to my constituency so you may be unaware that I was always very willing to meet personally (and regularly) with fellow local residents who held strong views on Brexit (both sides of the debate) throughout the process. I always fed in all comments raised even where I didn’t agree. I have had hundreds of these meetings.
However, I draw the line when this becomes personal and nasty.
You recently wrote to both the Swindon Advertiser and the Standards Commissioner to say amongst other things: ‘Tomlinson’s claims have no basis in truth. They are of a divisive, almost war mongering nature and are bound to stir up resentment and even hatred towards the EU, our EU migrants in Swindon and those who support them. This is irresponsible, misleading and as a person of authority who is likely to be believed, it is an abuse of parliamentary power and privilege to write in this toxic manner in his local Newspaper.’
I have always supported both respecting the Democratic will of the British public, and securing a Deal – nothing has changed”
Needless to say the group of local residents was rather put out by his response, particularly his failure to address the central issues of the accuracy of his statement and the inflammatory nature of them.
A prominent local pro-European campaigner therefore wrote the following reply…
“Being South Swindon I’m not one of your constituents. However, I must respond on behalf of my friend (redacted name) after you have accused him of writing ‘personal and nasty’ things about you. I too am one of the signatories on the Swindon resident’s complaint about your offending inflammatory article in the Swindon Advertiser.
This complaint was in no way ‘personal’ or ‘nasty’ about you. Only about your words. We consider your words to have been ill considered. In suggesting to your readers that EU is threatening to blockade Northern Ireland you paint a picture of a vast, alien enemy power threatening a vindictive act with the intention of purposely starving the inhabitants of our British province of NI into submission. Can you publish any concrete evidence of this malevolent intention? Your words would certainly make many people extremely angry with the EU, and by association anyone supportive of it or connected with it. We have 21,000 EU citizens in Swindon, plus spouse, children and supporters of EU membership. Similarly, your assertion that the EU is trying to break up the UK. That is an extreme statement and suggests a warlike attack, intended to break up our country. Anyone associated with this will be labelled ‘Traitors’ by very many, Brexit supporters who will be inflamed up by your words.
I was an anti Brexit campaigner both here and in London, as were several of the signatories to the complaint letter. I can assure you, the reality of the effects of your words is vitriol and violence to those who openly opposed Brexit, and this persists still to those who now openly wish to stay closer to the European regulatory sphere and further from the American sphere.
During the past three years I personally experienced two assaults where I was manhandled roughly by large, angry Brexiteers whilst handing out leaflets. Four times I’ve had my leaflets violently knocked out of my hand and had to scrabble in the mud to retrieve them. On each of those occasions the blow was so fast and unexpected I thought ‘Just a bit closer and that would have been my teeth! I have been told to my face on numerous occasions that if we didn’t do Brexit, it would be my ‘blood on the streets’, or that ‘Remainers would be killed’. Most upsetting was witnessing a fellow campaigner, 5′ tall sixty eight year old grandmother charged and kneed in the thigh by a thug who was screaming: ‘BREXIT!’. She was extensively bruised. She is one of your constituents. Being sixty two I’m not much younger myself, having already one hip replacement and awaiting the other I’m not especially young or robust either.
Verbal abuse daily included ‘Fascist, Nazi, Commie, Traitor, Anti democratic, Euro Freak, Euro loon, Disgusting Euro, C-nt, C-ck and every fithy expletive imaginable, accompanied by spitting and objects thrown. (One actually screamed in my face that the ‘EU murdered million Jews during the war!’)….The last time I wore an EU teeshirt in public was in London in July. I had met my daughter in Westminster. A group of skinhead, ‘Patriot’ thugs who had been harrassing the EU ‘Rejoiners’ and some Antiracism protesters earlier, outside parliament earlier that day, spotted my teeshirt, began shouting insults and sexually harrassing my daughter, then chased and surrounded me as I’d tried to defend her. We were only saved by a park warden loudly radioing for police assistance, which distracted them enough for us to escape across the road as the lights changed.
The techical word for supressing political expression by violence or the threat of violence is terrorism. Are you aware that the Swindon for Europe group has had to involve the police on multiple occasions?
Many of us have tried not to be intimidated or deterred by this behaviour as we believe we have a duty to campaign for our country, and indeed our continent. However it is worrying and depressing that many Remainers were bullied off the streets by this behaviour. These extreme and beligerent public statements by Tory Brexiteers in high office such as yourself, and also Farageists DO have a detrimental effect on our public life. However, unless you are at the sharp end of Brexiteer’s fury you couldn’t know. Therefore we are reporting it and want it stopped. Simple as that. Nothing to do with ‘personal or nasty’. Just please stop this hate speech”
Tomlinson has replied, and yet again has not addressed the central issues of the complaint I.e. the accuracy of his comments in the original article and their inflammatory nature…
“I am appalled to read what disgraceful acts you have faced and I very much hope when you involved the Police they took swift and decisive action.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, the language used in your letter was personal and nasty. You are better than that”
Mr Tomlinson, if you are reading this, please addressthe the issues.
You can do this very easily by publishing evidence to support your claims that the EU is trying to prevent food supplies being sent to Northern Ireland from Mainland UK and that the EU is trying to break up the UK. We would even be prepared to publish your evidence on this website.
If however you cannot provide that evidence, what conclusion should Swindon residents draw?
The only feasible conclusion is that your claims in the article were misleading. If that is the case Mr Tomlinson you should apologise and print a retraction…
We look forward to one of those two events happening in the near future