An MP has demanded social media companies do more to curb misogynistic abuse in politics after revealing how her family had to be taken to a safe house by police after escalating threats against her.
Carol Monaghan had rushed back to Scotland from Westminster after her office staff received a detailed threat. After landing, the mother of three was met by police who escorted her home, before taking the family to a new address.
Monaghan, 48, SNP MP for Glasgow North West, had been targeted by a stalker during an online hate campaign and described her feelings of dread when told of the threat.
She said: “Receiving that phone call from my office staff, warning me the threat had been made, changed everything. All I could think about was keeping my family safe. I’d chosen this public life, they hadn’t.
“I hardly even remember the journey from London to Glasgow. The police were waiting for me when I landed and they escorted me home.
“Officers stayed close by and the next morning they took me and my family somewhere safe.”
Earlier this year The Sunday Post exposed the scale of abuse and intimidation faced by women politicians, with a series of Scottish MPs and MSPs detailing harrowing experiences of abuse and threats.
Our reports prompted all Scottish parties to promise zero tolerance of misogynistic, online abuse, and a commitment to tackling the escalating climate of intimidation and threats against women in politics.
Monaghan said she had already been subjected to months of abuse on social media, and had tried to ignore it. She said she contacted social media platforms about some of the abuse, but her concerns were rejected.
She said: “Like lots of politicians and women in frontline jobs, I’d ignored it and just put it down to being part of the job but of course, it’s not part of our job having to deal with that, and it never should be.
“I’d spend time off social media and then think why should I have to do that? It gets harder and harder to have any sensible discussion without a big pile-on happening or having to delete people.”
But as her stalker ramped up his threats to such a terrifying level she feared for her life, the former teacher had to tell her family what was going on.
She said: “When my constituency office was targeted in 2019, and it began upsetting my staff, a line was drawn in the sand and I knew I couldn’t continue trying to shrug it off.”
Windows were broken on a number of occasions, and in a particularly nasty attack, tomato ketchup was smeared across the office front leaving it looking like a crime scene.
“The threats were especially sinister because they contained enough personal information and detail for me to realise some stranger had been watching me, and I’d been oblivious to their presence.
“They knew details of where and when I walked the family dog, some of the home life day-to-day stuff I’d always kept private.”
Other messages included references to murdered MP Jo Cox, and one saying: “Who needs a knife, when you have scissors.” Monaghan said: “The warning was implicit. It was frightening.
“Knowing she was murdered the way she was, when you get those terrible threats, you do start to wonder if that could happen to you too.”
A police investigation was launched and last week Jonathan Bell, 35, of Broomhill, Glasgow, pleaded guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court to placing the MP in a state of fear and alarm between January 9, 2018 and April 1, 2019.
He had also posted photos of her vandalised office on social media alongside an offensive comment. He tweeted the MP to say: “Why are people saying your life is in danger, Carol?”
Bell also stated, in reference to Brexit: “SNP MP is going against democracy.” He will be sentenced next month.
Monaghan says it is time for the courts to make it clear such behaviour will not be tolerated. She said: “I’m not being vindictive.
“A stand needs to be taken or people will believe it’s acceptable behaviour. It’s not.”
She also called on online giants such as Twitter and Facebook to do more. “I’m deeply upset that social media companies refused to take action when I drew their attention to offensive Tweets or messages,” said Monaghan.
“I was even called a ‘slag’, but Twitter refused to accept that broke any of its rules. Online abuse and hatred is causing terrible damage, inciting dreadful behaviour, even violence, but social media firms rarely take responsibility.
“It’s wrong and it has to stop. What kind of world do we live in where women in public life, like me, begin to think the horrible abuse and trolling they are subjected to is just part of their job? I doubt I’ve met another woman politician who hasn’t suffered similar horrible abuse.
“What message is that sending out? How can we encourage able, young women to hold high-profile positions when we know they will be targeted with vile messages and threats? We need change.”
Fellow SNP MP Lisa Cameron has pledged to reach out to support her colleague, just weeks after she too saw a convicted stalker ordered to undergo a treatment programme as part of his sentence for abuse and shouting at her through a megaphone last year.
Cameron, 49, MP for East Kilbride, has been asked to address the United Nations after she spoke just weeks ago of her own ordeal at the hands of fathers’ rights campaigner Brian McKerrow, 50.
The clinical psychologist said: “I sincerely hope by speaking out and demanding change we can stop this horrific abuse once and for all.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe