As the election began the press was full of stories about the number of MPs, particularly women, stepping down because of the “horrific abuse” they have received. MPs such as Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan dominated these reports, despite the fact that Diane Abbott MP was the recipient of half of all offensive tweets to female MPs in the six weeks preceding the official start of the election.
But MPs are not the only victims. A TUC survey published in 2018 revealed that 45 percent of safety representatives listed bullying as one of their top five workplace concerns. Overall it was the second biggest workplace issue after stress. One in ten workers had been bullied in the last six months; one in four in the last five years; and almost half had witnessed bullying.
This is a particular problem in professions dominated by women. One in five teachers plan to leave the profession early, with bullying cited as one of the key reasons, alongside stress and workload.
More than 300 nurses took their own lives in the seven years from 2011 to 2017, a rate 25 percent higher than the national average. In the years of austerity, working in the public sector is harder and more stressful than ever before.
Targets, monitoring, open criticism and intimidation are some of the mechanisms used to make people work harder. This culture now dominates every aspect of our lives. When politicians use language that openly attacks people because of their identity it adds to the climate of hostility. TV programmes such as Dragons Den, Britain’s Got Talent and Hell’s Kitchen are all testament to neoliberal individualism and the ritual humiliation of those not seen as successful.
MPs should consider their own complicity in creating the environment that is now causing them suffering.