Portsmouth council leaders say ‘deplorable’ abuse of councillors is putting people off from a life in politics

‘DEPLORABLE’ attacks on public figures in Portsmouth have prompted calls to the police and is turning people off from a life in politics, council chiefs have claimed.

Friday, 8th March 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Friday, 8th March 2019, 6:05 pm
Councillor Gerald Vernon Jackson with Councillor Donna Jones. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (141650-1)

Councillor Donna Jones, a former leader of Portsmouth City Council, said politicians – in all levels of government – needed to be weary of being targeted by the public,

‘With attacks on parliament and the sad death of Jo Cox, life in the public eye poses more of a threat than it did 10 years ago,’ said Cllr Jones. ‘These risks do also extend to local government across the UK.’

Portsmouth City Council has previously had to call the police on ‘several occasions’, the Tory boss said, to deal with anti-social behaviour in meetings. 

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She added: ‘Two such cases involved the lord mayor’s office calling 999, the full council meeting be adjourned and a police officer being assaulted in the reception are of the Guildhall while removing protesters from the council chamber.

‘Thankfully these incidents are few and far between.

‘While valuing and supporting freedom of speech, I deplore any actions that threaten an individual personally particularly if they are acting as a public servant.’

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, current leader of the council, said he has been abused online, with people leaving ‘horrid messages’ about him on social media.

On one bizarre occasion several years ago, the councillor was stalked by protesters who camped outside his home for several days.

‘The level of abuse is certainly putting people off standing for public office,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson said. ‘Being a councillor can be quite distressing. 

‘But it can be more distressing for your partner.’