Britain heads to the polls today after what a digital democracy campaign is calling “the most abusive election ever” – as new figures show that the police have received almost 200 reports over candidate safety in just three weeks.
Research also shows that in 75 seats no women candidates at all are standing today, with MPs like Heidi Allen standing down after becoming “exhausted” by the “nastiness and intimidation” they have endured, and other women refusing to stand for election “because of the abuse and intimidation they face online”.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council has revealed that 198 reports into election candidate safety were made between November 15 and December 4 – at least half of which serious enough to be treated as a crimes.
Most of the incidents were allegations of malicious communications online.
The figures come at the end of a campaign which saw police launch their “biggest ever operation” in order to keep candidates safe from attacks and abuse.
The Digital Democracy campaign is calling on better protection for local representatives.
The group has developed a free app called Rate Your Leader which allows confirmed voters to communicate directly with the elected representatives from their phones or tablets in a way which makes abuse impossible, as well as rating them for responsiveness.
Campaign head Joel Popoola said:
“There’s no doubt that this has been the most abusive election, and it must stand as a real wake-up as to what we need to do next time to keep candidates safe.
“The alternative is a world which quality candidates who could make a real difference to our country and our communities are afraid of standing or afraid to engage with voters. And both of those are terrible for our democracy.
“The online world is a vital front in this fight – which is why we have developed Rate Your Leader, a simple abuse-proof app which lets candidates and voters communicate, but keeps things courteous”.
The Rate Your Leader app is available from the Apple and Google Marketplaces. The app has a five star rating on the Google market, with one reviewer writing “This is the new level of politics…better communication of leaders with the electorates and accountability”.
An ever-increasing number of MPs, councillors, MEPs and Police & Crime Commissioners have already taken advantage of the free democracy app to stay in touch with the people who elect them and to get their message out to confirmed voters in their constituencies, helping them truly understand what matters most to the people who elect them.