A Labour MP has received a potential death threat on Twitter after backing British airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria. Neil Coyle, who represents Bermondsey and Old Southwark, contacted the police with evidence of the alleged tweet – as the abuse had left him worried for his wife, staff and volunteers. Scotland Yard has confirmed it is investigating a number of online threats made on social media against MPs following the controversial Commons vote.
The message sent to Mr Coyle, which included emojis of knives and has since been deleted, said: “@coyleneil , u voted for airstrikes in syria , if i see u round ends.”
Speaking to Newspapers, Mr Coyle said he did not blame Jeremy Corbyn for the online bullying but he did call on the Labour leader to distance himself from “people who think they are operating in his name”. He added: “It was before and after the vote that people thought it would be useful for democracy to make threats against MPs for their decision. There just seems to be this nasty keyboard warrior side that comes out of people that is unacceptable. “It is really difficult for the police to estimate who is real and genuine threat, and who is just trying to draw attention to themselves and act out.”
Police officers will be outside Mr Coyle’s constituency tomorrow, such is the perceived threat accordingly.
The scare follows a letter – penned by Jeremy Corbyn and his deputy, Tom Watson – which warned “abuse and intimidation have no place in politics”.
Those remarks were echoed by Chris Bryant, shadow leader of the House of Commons, who added: “Many people have, over the last few days, hurled a great deal of abuse at members for their views on whether or not the House should vote for extending airstrikes to Syria. “Some have been called murderers, peaceniks, terrorist sympathisers … no MP should ever be intimidated.”
Mr Coyle was among 66 Labour MPs to vote in support of extending airstrikes to Syria – with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond declaring “Britain is safer” after the Government’s plans were approved by 397 votes to 223 – a majority of 174.
Labour veteran Ken Livingstone had suggested that those Labour MPs who defied their leader and backed military action should be pushed out of their seats. The former mayor of London, who was controversially put in charge of the party’s defence review, told LBC: “If I had an MP who had voted to bomb Syria then I would be prepared to support someone to challenge him.”
Stephen Doughty, the shadow foreign affairs minister, has described Mr Livingstone’s remarks as “utterly inappropriate”.
Meanwhile, John Woodcock, the Labour-Cooperative MP for Barrow & Furness, said he welcomed Mr Corbyn’s calls to end abuse and intimidation – but called on him to “rein in” Mr Livingstone, as he “has gone too far”. During his interview with Newspapers, Mr Coyle also said a period of silence from Mr Livingstone “would be very welcome”.