Councillor reveals she was spat at by constituent

A COUNCILLOR has told about the darker side her role in serving the public — revealing she has been spat at and subjected to verbal abuse.

Cllr Tracey Wilson said she had sympathy for Rother Valley MP Alexander Stafford, who reported on social media that he had been forced to summon police to his street surgery in Maltby on Friday due to “threats and abusive behaviour”.

The Anston and Woodsetts Independent councillor told the Advertiser she had considered quitting after suffering insults and attacks on social media.

“The level of abuse politicians receive is a serious issue,” she said.

“You just have to look back at MP Jo Cox and Sir David Amess, who were both murdered for serving in a public office to know how scary it is.

“In my opinion, it’s an issue which transcends party politics.

Politicians don’t help themselves when they are shouting at each other, calling each other names and making jibes at one another.

“It’s bullying behaviour masked as banter.

“When they are talking to each other like this and setting an example, how are the public expected to react?

“Abuse of any kind is not acceptable and needs to be eradicated immediately.

“Each party needs to play their part in calling out abuse.”

Cllr Wilson described the abuse she and her colleagues had received since she became a councillor in May 2021 as “appalling”.

“I think the issue brought up by Mr Stafford has really brought back negative experiences I have been exposed to,” she said.

“I’ve had constituents spit in my face, hurling abuse that I shouldn’t be a politician and generally being quite negative.

“It’s mostly verbal abuse and it is all encompassing in the fact that you get it in person, on social media and through your letterbox.

“It really does have a negative impact on your mental health and it affected me a lot during my first year as a councillor.

“You have to think about your family as well who don’t deserve this level of abuse.

“What people often forget is politicians are just trying to do their job for the greater good of the community and find the best solution for the common good.

“That’s what they are elected to do.

“There was a point when I wanted to quit because it got so bad but I got through it in the end by sheer will and determination.”

Cllr Wilson said she always aimed to make herself accessible to constituents but has been “freaked” by an incident which took place last year.

“I received an email last year from a charity —  it would be unfair to say which — which I thought was genuine and asking if I’d help fundraise for them which I agreed too,” she added.

“The mailer then said one of the activities involved a food-throwing contest which I thought was strange but didn’t think too much about.

“A time and date was arranged and they started to ask which smelly food I’d prefer to be thrown over me which got me slightly worried.

“I contacted the charity after to confirm the email wasn’t genuine and was most likely a prank.

“I thought about it for a while afterwards because it really hit me hard.

“What would their intentions have been had I attended?

“It could have been a lot more serious which is why I try to be more vigilant now.”