During a Local Government Association event last week called "Civility in Public Life", elected officials shared horror stories that included death threats, kidnappings, harassment of family members, receiving dog mess in the mail, monstrous sexism, among other abusive behaviour in the course of their work as city council members.
Newcastle City leader Nick Forbes urges the media to take some responsibility for polarizing debates:
There are a number of things that we need to be doing here. One is calling out the media for constantly promoting political discourse as fights, conflict, wars and battles. Sometimes we're guilty, but actually, what sells press and what acts as click bait is the idea of conflict.
And one of the serious conversations I've tried to have with our local media here in the city, is that they have a responsibility not to reduce complicated and complex and diverse issues, to a simple yes or no good, bad, good people versus evil people type argument, which is what they always try to do.
I'm very grateful I'm not a woman politician, because most certainly the abuse that female politicians get is far, far worse than anything any male politicians get.
Journalists are urged to recognize that with the stroke of a pen, mobs are unleashed, political careers are ended, public institutions are destabilized, communities are left divided and democracy is subsumed by mob rule.
When the feeding frenzy is over, years later, communities are forced to pick up the pieces, as in the case of the City of Brampton, that just issued formal apologies to elected officials and former staffers who were politically assassinated years ago. The net losses to the community are incalculable. See: City apologizes for Mayor's political assassination; media should too
Just as in jurisdictions across North America, UK's Local Government Association members are urged to implement Codes of Conduct and provided support for dealing with intimidation from members of the public.
For more on ways local governments can to address toxic culture in communities, read: "Save Your City: How Toxic Culture Kills Community & What To Do About It"