Anna Soubry, one of the 11 Conservative MPs who defied government whips this week when the government suffered its first Commons defeat over Brexit, has received multiple messages saying she should be hanged as a traitor.
Messages received by Soubry’s office usually seen first by her parliamentary staff also feature abuse, with one Facebook message saying: “Go hang yourself slag.”
It follows death threats to Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, who drew up the amendment to the EU withdrawal bill that passed on Wednesday by 309 votes to 305, ensuring MPs must have a final vote on any Brexit deal.
The rebellion prompted a scathing response by some newspapers. The Daily Mail said 11 “self-consumed malcontents” had betrayed their leader, party and 17.4 million Brexit voters.
On Twitter, a post by Soubry defending herself against the Mail’s attack prompted a reply: “You and these traitors should be hung in public.”
Another Twitter user posted a link to a separate Daily Mail article that claimed Soubry and other rebels had celebrated their success with champagne, something the MP has vehemently denied.
A reply to this tweet compared Soubry to William Joyce, known as Lord Haw Haw, who was hanged after the second world war for his wartime radio broadcasts from Nazi Germany. It ended: “Traitor Anna Soubry deserves to stand trial for the same crime.”
Other tweets called for the Queen to seek treason charges against Soubry so she could be hanged, while another said: “Back in the day you would have walked through traitors gate and been beheaded in the tower of London, you are the true definition of a traitor.”
Emails sent to Soubry’s office, and seen by the Guardian, took similar lines.
One, from a man in Tonbridge, Kent about 150 miles from Soubry’s Broxtow constituency read: “You deserve to be HUNG for your attack on our democracy yesterday. WE VOTED OUT! OUT! OUT!” The writer, who gave his full address and telephone number, ended the email: “MAY YOU BURN IN HELL FOR ETERNITY.”
Another rebel Tory MP, Sarah Wollaston, also said that she had been threatened.
Soubry told the Guardian her main worry was for her staff: “As with all members of parliament they have access to my emails, they take the phone calls. So they have to read all this stuff. I think people forget it’s the parliamentary staff who feel even more intimidated than members of parliament.”
The media had “fuelled a lot of this”, Soubry argued: “The words in certain newspapers are replicated so mutineer’ is then in an email saying: We all know what happens to mutineers, let’s see you hanging from a lamppost or a tree.’
“I got an email from somebody yesterday saying: In the past, traitors were taken out and shot.’ It’s appalling. I’m sure some of these people, if they took a step back, would actually be appalled themselves. But they are being whipped up into a frenzy by certain sections of the media that have frankly lost the plot.”
While the abuse came from a tiny minority of people, Soubry said, it seemed indicative of deep divisions in the country that were not being addressed.
“It’s the job of government to do everything they can to bring people together, and it’s the responsibility of everybody in public life to build a more tolerant society,” she said.
The idea perpetuated in some newspapers that she and other Tory rebels were seeking to overturn Brexit was nonsense, Soubry said.
“I said I will honour the result of the referendum, so I voted to trigger article 50. So, I accept we are leaving the European Union, even though the result was close. My argument now is how do we get the best deal, and I want parliament, finally, to be involved in getting the best deal for our country. Why does that make me a traitor?”