November 10, 2022 5.15 pm This story is over 12 months old

Toxic Twitter: Lincolnshire MP among most abused

Caroline Johnson faced more Twitter abuse than Boris, Starmer and more

Sleaford & North Hykeham MP Caroline Johnson received the 2nd highest proportion of severe Twitter abuse amongst all MPs in the country, according to a new BBC data unit study.

The BBC investigation into the extent of online abuse aimed at Members of Parliament, particularly on social media platform Twitter, found that over 3,000 offensive tweets are sent to MPs across the UK every single day.

The data looks at tweets between March 15 and April 23 this year, using an algorithm tool that flags up offensive comments, defined as “rude, disrespectful or unreasonable”.

This time frame is just a couple of months shy of Boris Johnson’s resignation as Prime Minister, sparked by a flurry of cabinet resignations as confidence dwindled in his leadership.

It highlighted an often ignored subject within the realm of politics, the impact words can have on the human beings placed into roles of power by voting constituents.

With the recent Twitter takeover at the hands of the world’s richest person Elon Musk, and a pledge to promote free speech and freedom of expression – there are question marks over the responsibilities of social media companies to clamp down on this level of abuse.

Lincolnshire: Dr Caroline Johnson ‘2nd most severely abused MP’ in country

North Hykeham and Sleaford MP Caroline Johnson

The worst affected in Greater Lincolnshire was Sleaford and North Hykeham’s Caroline Johnson, who ranked 11th in the country for proportions of toxic tweets, and 2nd only to Chester MP Christian Matheson for “severely toxic” mentions.

Dr Johnson received 242 Twitter mentions in the timeframe, with 18 of them flagged up as toxic and 9 as severely toxic. This gives her proportions of 7.4% and 3.7% respectively.

She was followed by Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh, who recently made headlines following a controversial House of Commons statement, calling for a repeal of Human Rights protections to make deportation of immigrants easier.

Sir Edward ranked 66th in the toxicity table, with 67 of the 1587 tweets he received between mid-March and late April being considered toxic.

Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh.

He was also 42nd in the country for severe online abuse, with 13 tweets considered the most offensive or hurtful by the algorithm.

This data shows that both Sir Edward Leigh and Dr Caroline Johnson were abused on Twitter more than former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer, current Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and the outspoken ex-Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney was mentioned in 1,134 tweets in this time, 16 of which were deemed toxic, and just one was considered severe.

Karl McCartney, MP for Lincoln, and Matt Warman, MP for Boston and Skegness.

He was in close proximity with Boston & Skegness’ Matt Warman on the league tables, as the East Lindsey-based MP received 27 abusive tweets out of 1,724.

The least affected in Greater Lincolnshire was Grantham & Stamford MP Gareth Davies, who received just one tweet deemed toxic out of 220 mentions – and no severe verbal abuse.

He ranked 549th and 550th respectively in the tables, over 100 places clear of the next Lincolnshire MP.

The rankings for Greater Lincolnshire MPs on both toxicity tables are:

‘Toxic tweets’

  • 11th: Caroline Johnson (Sleaford & North Hykeham) – 7.4% with 18 of 242
  • 66th: Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) – 4.2% with 67 of 1587
  • 354th: Matt Warman (Boston & Skegness) – 1.6% with 27 of 1724
  • 371st: Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) – 1.6% with 4 of 247
  • 388th: Lia Nici (Great Grimsby) – 1.5% with 8 of 530
  • 402nd: Karl McCartney (Lincoln) – 1.4% with 16 of 1134
  • 549th: Gareth Davies (Grantham & Stamford) – 0.5% with 1 of 220

‘Severely toxic’

  • 2nd: Caroline Johnson – 3.7% with 9 of 242
  • 42nd: Edward Leigh – 0.8% with 13 of 1587
  • 313th: Lia Nici – 0.2% with 1 of 530
  • 372nd: Karl McCartney – 0.1% with 1 of 1134
  • 377th: Matt Warman – 0.1% with 1 of 1724
  • 550th: Gareth Davies: 0% with 0 of 220

Louth and Horncastle MP Victoria Atkins, along with Scunthorpe member Holly Mumby-Croft, South Holland and The Deepings’ John Hayes and Brigg & Goole MP Andrew Percy were not included in the figures – as they do not have public Twitter accounts.