The Labour MP and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has condemned the online abuse faced by the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg.
Kuenssberg is currently covering the Labour party’s annual conference in Brighton, and media reports suggest she has been accompanied by a bodyguard after receiving threats on social media. The high-profile journalist is a divisive figure for many on the left, who believe she is biased against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
However, Abbott – one of Corbyn’s oldest friends and closest allies – has urged Kuenssberg’s detractors not to resort to online bullying and threats. Abbott faced horrific racist and sexist cyber-abuse in the run-up to the general election in June, and has previously spoken out about the impact of online harassment.
“Don’t do it. Just don’t do it,” Abbott told The Guardian, when asked what she would say to Labour supporters regarding online abuse.
“There is a positive case to make on Jeremy online, make that positive case,” she continued. “You don’t have to be abusing other people.”
The Labour party conference was not the first time that Kuenssberg had required personal security: reports first surfaced that the journalist was being accompanied by a bodyguard during the general election.
However, Abbott said that she was saddened that a woman should need protection when she was just “doing her job”.
“It is wrong,” she said. “Laura is doing a job. I may not always like how she does the job every time, but it is her job.”
“Why – just because she is a woman journalist – does she get that level of abuse?” Abbott continued. “It’s wrong.”
Abbott said that she had been touched by the support she received from Labour party members after receiving a barrage of online harassment during the general election campaign.
She temporarily stepped down as shadow home secretary in June, just one day before the election, citing health concerns, and later revealed the extent of the abuse she had faced.
A fundraising page set up to send Abbott a care package, which praised the Hackney MP’s courage in the face of “combined racism and sexism”, raised almost £6,000.
Abbott was not the only Labour politician to speak out against the treatment of Kuenssberg. Jess Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, said that she was “sad” that Kuenssberg required security.
“In 2016 women cannot feel safe at work,” Phillips tweeted. “If we ignore abuse when it comes from our allies we are hypocrites.”
In a later tweet, Phillips accused people who claimed Kuenssberg had lied about needing a bodyguard of victim-blaming.
MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy supported Phillips’ tweet.
“No ifs, no buts, no one should ever be threatened because you disagree what they say in a democratic movement,” she said.
Images: Rex Features