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Editorial No place for thuggish abuse dished out by fake ‘yellow vests’

MPS are right to protest against the nasty display of thuggish abuse and intimidation by some far-right, self-styled “yellow vests” outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday.

While the Parisian “gilets jaunes” have been prepared to take on the notoriously violent paramilitary police forces of the French state, their loud-mouthed imposters in London preferred to pick on a female MP and a couple of slightly-built journalists. 

Like Tory MPs on both sides of the EU division, Remainer Anna Soubry has right-wing views for which the Morning Star has no sympathy. 

She also regards many millions of Britain’s electors as gullible enough to swallow any old promise on the side of a bus — but wants to give them a chance to redeem themselves in a repeat referendum. 

Indeed, Soubry has argued her case on television in very strident and aggressive tones, even falling out on air with one of her rather more restrained Tory colleagues.

But she is not a “fascist” or a “nazi,” as some of the louts called her yesterday. Nor is she a “traitor,” to repeat another inflammatory charge which can only have the intention of intimidating or provoking the object of such abuse.

Flinging around such epithets does not persuade or enlighten anyone in the ongoing debate about Brexit. Nor, it might be suspected, is that the flinger’s intention.

Of course, different views about the best future for Britain are going to be held and expressed with passion. Lines will be crossed and many such minor occasions are best left unremarked upon or forgotten.

However, the ugly spectacle witnessed at Westminster merited a more forthright intervention from the police to halt the violent language and aggressive harassment. 

Such behaviour would never have gone unchallenged in a town centre on a Saturday night and nor should it have been allowed to proceed on Monday, whether its targets are MPs, journalists or less exalted members of the general public.

On this occasion, the perpetrators included a number of known far-right activists who oppose Britain’s membership of the EU for nationalist and racist reasons.

While their sentiments may reflect in more extreme form those of many Brexit supporters, they are not representative of the overwhelming majority of the 17.4 million electors who opted in June 2016 to leave the EU. 

Most Leave as well as Remain voters will have found the behaviour of the pretend “yellow vests” repugnant.

To their credit, some of the victims on that occasion have — along with MPs who have signed the letter to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner — confirmed that this thuggishness is not remotely typical of Brexit supporters. 

Those Remainers who claim otherwise — and that Brexit is to blame for lowering standards of political debate and public conduct — besmirch themselves with such cheap nonsense. 

The only problem with the MPs’ letter is that so many signatories exhibit such partisan double standards. 

Among them are many EU supporters who have said or done nothing to condemn the disruptive and physically threatening actions aimed at the likes of William Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage. 
  
Many signatories — especially those apologists for the brutal policies of the Israeli state — remained silent when their parliamentary colleague, George Galloway, was hospitalised by a zionist street thug.

Tolerance of non-racist, non-sexist, non-fascist views across the political spectrum, peppered with heckling, salty put-downs and even intelligent insults, is a vital part of our democratic culture. 

We should bear that in mind when tempted to abuse each other or large numbers of our fellow citizens in violent, inflammatory and highly provocative terms.

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