North Devon MP Selaine Saxby victim of sexist abuse

North Devon Gazette

Conservative MP for North Devon Selaine Saxby has revealed that she was recently the victim of sexist abuse, in what she says is an example of the higher levels of abuse directed at female MPs.Â

Ms Saxby was walking through Barnstaple with Devon County Council leader councillor John Hart (Conservative, Bickleigh & Wembury) when she received ‘unpleasant and misogynistic verbal abuse’.Â

She said: “An older gentleman hurled general abuse at cllr Hart, saw me and asked me if ‘I had any knickers on.’Â

“I do wonder whether he was interested in cllr Hart’s underwear,” she quipped.Â

Ms Saxby continued: “This is sadly the kind of sexist abuse many female MPs are subjected to. My male colleagues may get comments, but there is a particular level of spite and virulence in the way people treat many female MPs.”Â

She added: “I worry that the increased anonymous behaviour and language used online is making our society less tolerant, more prone to accepting that we can all be rude and hateful to whoever we want, particularly as we emerge from lockdown.:Â

The matter is now being investigated by police.Â

Delivering an update to North Devon District Council this week superintendent Toby Davies, local police authority commander for North and West Devon, confirmed that Ms Saxby had been subjected to ‘disgusting, expletive-ridden, misogynistic comments’.Â

Supt Davies said: “In the context of violence against women and perceptions around the safety of women who are out and about it’s just completely unacceptable.”Â

Ms Saxby argues that Barnstaple town centre needs cleaning up and that its current state of disrepair is contributing to anti-social behaviour. However, she was keen to emphasise that the incident was reflective of wider problems.Â

She said: “Let me be clear it is not just Barnstaple where people do not always feel safe.Â

“There are alleys and corners across Devon that many of us are never quite sure about. It may be streetlights that have been out for months, blind spots in CCTV, or a group of people who are always hanging outside a particular place.”Â

Ms Saxby believes StreetSpace, a new online service launched by the Home Office where people can highlight locations where they feel unsafe and why can help. It is part of the government’s attempt to tackle violence against women and girls.Â

Data collected from the service will be available to local police. It’s hoped this will help them identify areas of concern and take action.Â