The arrival of BBC Question Time in the Senedd last night was rather symbolic. With the programme dominated by events in Parliament and the Supreme Court, it seemed natural that the Question Time should be too. After all, from the moment that the Assembly plenary session began this week an urgent question was allowed to enable the First Minister to be questioned on the outcome of the Supreme Court judgement. Not that the response to the outcome was anything really to do with him, but that sort of logical dividing line between governments and legislatures doesn’t really seem to matter anymore.
This was also the week in which the issue of language in politics became ever more prominent. The use of the word “humbug” to describe the genuine fears of women MPs in the light of the murder of one of their own has drawn cross party condemnation and dismay. Language really does matter. But it is important that when challenging language there is consistency and context. On Wednesday a Labour MP slammed the Attorney General for using the phrase “When did you last beat your wife” when she herself also used it on social media a couple of years ago. Truth is, most of the most inflammatory language has come from the Brexit side, but they are not alone. For every “Surrender Act” there has been a “coup”.
Both sides bear responsibility for retrenchment and upping the heat. It is for both parts of this debate to reflect on how they are conducting themselves, though again it is worth being clear that the more violent words – and in some cases images – are coming from the Brexit side.
Brexit has been weaponised for years, not just this week. But it was this week perhaps that the viciousness and fear really took on a darker significance. The mention of the death of Jo Cox should have made people pause and come together in common values. Regrettably it did the opposite.