Tory MPs roundly condemned for violent coup fantasy against Theresa May

Theresa May at PMQs
Joshua Funnell

An anonymous Tory MP has made violent remarks about prime minister Theresa May. And an outpouring of disgust and condemnation from all sides has followed.

Robert Shrimsley of the Financial Times tweeted the comments from 21 October’s Sunday Times:

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These weren’t the words of an angry Brexiteer keyboard warrior, but an anonymous Conservative MP describing a coup fantasy.

According to the Guardian, other unnamed MPs also said May was entering “the killing zone”, that “assassination is in the air”, and that she should “bring her own noose” when meeting unhappy backbench colleagues.

Cross-party condemnation

Unsurprisingly, condemnation across the political spectrum has been fierce. Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott – who knows more than most about violent abuse – was quick to respond:

Former frontbencher Nicky Morgan also expressed her disgust:

So too did Anna Soubry, who criticised colleague Mark Francois for failing to clearly condemn the remarks on BBC Radio 4. Although describing the comments as “unacceptable”, he seemed to partly excuse them as being born of “frustration” with government Brexit policy.

Others were less measured and came out swinging:

Just a metaphor?

There are those who claim that these statements are just creative uses of language. Similar arguments were put forward when Chuka Umunna said Jeremy Corbyn should “call off the dogs” when referring to supporters of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But the language in this case is particularly vicious. It is also used in a context where, in recent memory, Jo Cox was literally stabbed to death. And it comes amid endemic violence against women in society and soaring knife crime.

Do the Tories have a problem with violent language?

The Tories seem to have a problem with the casual use of violent language. Only recently, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson described Theresa May’s Chequers deal as a “suicide vest”. This at a time when Britain has suffered numerous acts of terror in recent years. Tory MP Sir Alan Duncan called this incident:

one of the most disgusting moments in modern British politics

But the Labour Party has had its own problems with this in the recent past too. Corbyn sceptic Jess Phillips, for example, infamously told Owen Jones that:

the day it becomes that you are hurting us more than you are helping us, I won’t knife you in the back – I’ll knife you in the front.

Solution?

Labour MP Yvette Cooper has proposed identifying and exposing the source of the controversial quotes to deter others from using similar language.

Tory MP Heidi Allen didn’t pull her punches either. Speaking on BBC Politics Live, she said those who made the comments should have the whip removed and be “thrown out the party”.

Kinder, gentler Tory politics?

This incident is yet another example of the nasty underbelly of a crumbling Conservative Party. As it becomes increasingly desperate, that underbelly is becoming increasingly visible. Only last week, for example, Conservative home secretary Sajid Javid thought it entirely acceptable to post an EDL-esque tweet about “sick Asian paedophiles”.

This incident again highlights the shameful hypocrisy of a party which attempts to demonise Labour members, Momentum, and Corbyn supporters as ‘bullies’, ‘thugs’ and even ‘neofascists‘, while it panders to racists and appears to incite violence against its own leader.

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Joshua Funnell