Norfolk MP Brandon Lewis challenges Jeremy Corbyn to tackle online abuse targeted at politicians

PUBLISHED: 12:57 14 January 2018 | UPDATED: 12:57 14 January 2018

Brandon Lewis in Downing Street. Picture PA.

Brandon Lewis in Downing Street. Picture PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis has challenged Jeremy Corbyn to tackle online abuse after revealing that Conservative candidates will sign a pledge to behave responsibly.

Mr Lewis, the new Conservative chairman, said Tory candidates who breached the pledge would be suspended as he called on Labour to “make the same statement”.

Mr Corbyn said treating people with respect was “a basic” in his party.

Mr Lewis, who took over the role in last week’s Government reshuffle, said online media was being “abused” in the Labour Party and people were being subject to behaviour that was not acceptable.

He told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “We’ll be drafting up a pledge. All our candidates will sign up to that pledge, to behave responsibly and show respect online during the elections.

“And I do expect, Jeremy Corbyn is on TV this morning I think, he should be coming out and standing up to this.”

Mr Lewis went on to say: “If people, our candidates, in the elections this year breach that code and there is evidence they’ve breached that responsibility pledge, we will suspend them.

“And I call on the Labour Party to stand up and make the same statement.”

It came as Mr Lewis urged the party to beef-up their digital presence to take the fight to Labour.

“We’ve got to make sure that all of us at the very top of the party avoid this rot that we’re seeing at the top of the Labour Party and we actually show from the very top, we’ll argue our case robustly, but with respect,” Mr Lewis said.

Mr Corbyn was asked about the Tory’s pledge on ITV’s Peston on Sunday.

“It’s basic in the Labour Party, you treat people with respect and treat each other with respect,” he said.

“We’re quite clear. Public behaviour is about respect, is about listening to people, is about how you treat each other.

“Surely that should be a norm in public life.”

Mr Corbyn was also challenged about past comments by shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who called Esther McVey, the new Work and Pensions Secretary, a “stain on humanity”.

Mr Corbyn replied: “I would rather stick to where I disagree with somebody on their policies.

“I fundamentally disagree with Esther McVey and her approach towards inequality and the poor and the worst off in our society, and I will stick to that.”

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Lewis said the Tories would equip activists with a cyber “toolkit”, including graphics, gifs and videos to increase their visibility with voters.

Labour’s digital operation at the last general election was widely seen to have outperformed other parties.

Ben Bradley, who was named as Conservative vice chairman for youth in this week’s reshuffle, said his party must look at how it gets its messages across.

Writing in the Observer, the 28-year-old MP for Mansfield, said: “The facts are there, but we need to boldly reassert our values and talk about what we stand for as Conservatives - about what we believe in and what drives us to deliver those policies and successes.

“At the same time, we need to look at how we disseminate our message. Already we are improving our commitment to digital strategy, focusing on social media and how we broadcast to young people effectively.”

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