Church of England bishops called on Members of Parliament to mind their language and for respect on all sides of the Brexit argument. They emphasised that the language being used in an increasingly vitriolic debate was divisive and abusive.
The bishops said in a joint statement issued on behalf of the church amid the growing acrimony over the debate on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, “We should speak to others with respect. And we should also listen,” “In the last few days, the use of language, both in debates and outside Parliament, has been unacceptable.”
Recently, the Parliament has been at boiling point, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his opponents engaged in hours of furious argument over Britain’s departure from the European Union.
The Prime Minister has goaded opponents either to bring down the government or get out of the way to allow him to deliver Brexit by October 31.
He repeatedly called a law that forces him to ask the EU to delay Brexit unless he strikes a withdrawal deal next month, something he calls the “Surrender Bill”.
His critics have said such language has led to threats and abuse against his opponents.
The bishops, who reaffirmed their respect for the 2016 referendum and their belief it should be honoured, also said they were concerned about the structure and constitution of the United Kingdom.
“It is easy to descend into division and abuse – climbing out and finding unity again takes far longer,” they said.
“Further entrenching our divisions, whether from uncertainty or from partisanship, is not worthy of our country nor the leadership we now need.”
The statement adds, “ The teachings of Jesus Christ call for us to be generous and humble servants; virtues which are for all leaders, whatever their faith.”
“We call on politicians to adhere rigorously to the rule of law and on all to respect and uphold the impartiality of the courts and our judiciary.”
“Our concern is also for the structure and the constitution of the United Kingdom. To use the words of Jesus, we must renew the structures that enable us to “love one another”. Changes to our principles and values of government, if necessary, should be through careful planning and consultation.”
The language used in recent Brexit debates has been provocative and incendiary as MPs sought to portray their political rivals as anti-democratic and treacherous.
After the Supreme Court ruled the government’s decision to suspend parliament was unlawful last month, the attorney general unleashed an unfettered attack on parliament, as he raged against the “spineless” Labour frontbench and “cowardly” MPs for refusing to grant the prime minister an election.
“This parliament is a disgrace,” he said to MPs. “This parliament is a dead parliament. It should no longer sit, It has no moral right to sit on these green benches.”
He charged on, “The time is coming when even these turkeys won’t be able to prevent Christmas!”
Labour’s Barry Sheerman shaking in anger as he accused the attorney general of having “no shame all”. “To come here with his barrister’s bluster to obsfucate the truth – a man like him, a party like this and a leader like this, to talk about morals and morality. It’s a disgrace.”
With the stage set, Boris Johnson dived in, by calling his opponents “humbug.”