The MP, the convict and a question of character

PUBLISHED: 14:16 14 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:16 14 February 2020

Conservative Party MP, Andrea Jenkyns. Photo: Getty Images

Conservative Party MP, Andrea Jenkyns. Photo: Getty Images

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STEVE ANGLESEY on the double standards of Brexiteer MP Andrea Jenkyns over abuse in politics.

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In the final week of January, the Brexiteer MP Andrea Jenkyns told the Yorkshire Post's political podcast Pod's Own Country about the abuse she had suffered over the last few years. "At the height of it I got death threats," she said. "I got people writing on my office wall telling me to kill myself… we had someone in July who phoned the office threatening to 'rip the bitch's face off'."

On another occasion, which Jenkyns spoke about late last year, a man with a sledgehammer confronted one of her team while they were out canvassing. "When I found out what happened, I was in tears," she said.

This is awful, horrible stuff. You hate to imagine another Remainer doing it. You hate to imagine another human doing it. You hate to imagine anyone being on the receiving end. All of which makes what happened next all the more difficult to fathom.

In the first week of February, a Conservative pro-Brexit campaigner named Joshua Spencer was jailed for nine weeks after admitting to sending a message in April 2019 in which he called MP Yvette Cooper a "whore" and added, "She will pay. I'm already organising to hurt her. Amazing what crackheads will do for £100. I'm going to get her beat up."

Impact statements from Cooper and her former office manager Jade Botterill were read at Spencer's trial. Cooper's spoke about how Spencer has continued to email her office even after his arrest (he lives in her Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford constituency) and organised a "hostile" demo outside it last summer. He'd even attended her election count in December as a representative of the Tories. Spencer's actions, said Botterill, left her "constantly on edge" and led to her leaving a job she'd done for seven years.

Andrea Jenkyns, who beat Cooper's husband Ed Balls in 2015 to win her Morley and Outwood seat, also gave a statement to the court. Hers was a character reference for Spencer, whom she described as "a decent and honest person… whose heart is in the right place and who always helps people in need".

Jenkyns said that while she did not "condone what he wrote in any manner", Spencer had suffered "an incredibly difficult life so far".

Not surprisingly, this has left Botterill baffled. "I don't really understand why she would do that," she told The New European. "She must know what it's like to receive abuse and threats. Unfortunately most MPs do. And it's particularly worse for female MPs in West Yorkshire." The name of Jo Cox is unspoken but Morley is a five-minute train ride from Batley, which Cox represented.

Jenkyns later issued a statement standing by her decision. "I have known Joshua for a number of years," she wrote. "Josh has bipolar and had mental health issues since his father's suicide in 2015 and I was and remain concerned about his mental well-being and wanted to make sure it was taken into consideration as part of the judicial process."

The thought is commendable, but some things don't quite stack up. For a start, there is dispute over exactly how long Jenkyns has known Spencer, who acted as a UKIP agent in the 2017 general election and only joined the Conservatives after that.

There is the question of how comfortably Jenkyns' concern for an acquaintance's well-being sits next to cuts in mental health funding under Conservative governments; last year 92% of NHS mental health trust leaders in England said they believed benefit changes under the Tories have increased the number of people with anxiety and depression.

And how does Jenkyns marry her plea for clemency on behalf of a Conservative campaigner with her demand for tougher justice for others? In December 2018 she tabled an early day motion calling for more stringent sentencing, noting that "keeping perpetrators of violent crime off the street will send the right message to people that might engage in such acts, help keep the public safe and deter further violent offences". Would she have intervened on behalf of someone with mental health issues who did not happen to share her political views? If so, how many times has she done this recently?

We asked Jenkyns' constituency office some of these questions - and others, including how Spencer managed to be among the 400 attendees of the "Big Brexit Bash" party she organised on January 31 - but they are yet to respond.

In the Commons on Monday, Cooper expressed disappointment that "the neighbouring MP chose to give a very positive character reference for this individual without contacting me first. And I have raised that with her directly".

Jenkyns has issued a further statement expressing "solidarity to Yvette, her staff & all my colleagues who, like me, have been threatened". But, says Botterrill, "Andrea hasn't reached out to me. I don't know if she has reached out to Yvette. It's still pretty upsetting she hasn't condemned his actions.

"We need everyone in politics to demonstrate that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable not be giving them character references knowing they've supported violence to someone just for doing their job."

In her podcast interview, Jenkyns said she felt sad that, post-Brexit, there were "colleagues in the tea room who won't sit next to me". Her actions in the case of Joshua Spencer surely won't help that change any time soon.

STEVE'S SELECTION

LEMBIT OPIK and HENRY BOLTON

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"To read the perspective of a senior figure in British politics at such a volatile time has given me the chance to test my own perspective versus that of another person who's thought extensively."

Does this oddly-constructed sentence come from a heavyweight Brexiteer's review of the John Bercow autobiography, or a former cabinet minister weighing in on David Cameron's as it hits paperback? No, it's the bloke who went out with a Cheeky Girl in the foreword for a newish book by the bloke who goes out with a woman who was racist about Meghan Markle. "A senior figure in British politics" indeed!

Bolton's What A State features quotes from Sophocles, Shakespeare and Einstein but nothing as good as his partner Jo Marney's explanation for claiming she felt like Anne Frank ("I didn't mean I was a Jewish girl that was going to be captured by the Nazis. I just couldn't go outside, or near windows").

PETER DAWE

The internet pioneer, entrepreneur and failed Brexit Party candidate unveiled his latest invention - a £100 "sleep pod" for the homeless, made from two wheelie bins joined together.

Dawe polled 1,041 votes in Cambridge at the last election despite billing himself as a "superhero". He has also recently invented the "solar pod", a 20mph electric vehicle which is also - as you might have guessed - "the size of a wheelie bin". He moaned: "It's the perfect solution, but can I get a single establishment politician to recognise those advantages? No!" Wonder why?

A homeless charity has branded his latest wheeze "a load of bull****" but Dawe insisted: "It is a Marmite design." How long before he suggests the homeless should kip in a giant jar of Marmite which converts into a car?

GERARD BATTEN

Prepare the world's smallest violin! UKIP's suspiciously-coiffed former leader has Tweeted: "Very sad news. UKIP is now on the brink of insolvency. This has happened because of the NEC driving away members & revenue… If UKIP dies it will be because of the NEC."

Just a thought, but should some - indeed the lion's share - of the blame not lie with the leader who at last June's Europeans elections managed to retain none of the 24 MEPs the party won in 2014? And who lost all but three of the 126 council seats they defended in 2018 before losing 145 of the 176 they defended a year later?

You know, the one who was so bad he thought cuddling up to Tommy Robinson was a vote-winner? Who

was such a disaster that he was replaced by someone actually called Dick Braine? Now, who was that again?

NIGEL FARAGE

The nicotine-stained man-frog plumbed new depths while on a visit to a private evangelical university in America by suggesting that divine intervention might have spared him from his 2010 plane crash in order to deliver Brexit.

Farage accepted an honorary doctorate from LGBT+-unfriendly Liberty University, whose "honour code" for students bans "sexual relations outside of a Biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and natural-born woman".

He told an interviewer: "How on earth I survived I will never know." When the interviewer suggested it was "God's providence and protection", Farage replied: "I'm alive and he (the pilot, who survived the crash, but died in 2013) is not and I did think after I survived that perhaps, just perhaps, I was put here for a purpose."

Does this mean that the biggest Brexiteer of them all is God?

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