The public perception of MPs took a knock almost a decade ago when the scandal of their expenses was revealed and it has never really recovered since then.

Local councillors are also not generally held in high regard and many people cannot even name the people who are supposed to represent them.

Political indifference is not healthy and contempt is worse. They are both usually unfair on men and women of all parties who work hard on our behalf.

But something far worse has been hitting the headlines recently, and that is abuse of our elected representatives.

Karen Barford, a Labour councillor in Brighton and Hove, has decided not to stand for re-election next year because of threats to her safety.

These include being followed from a council meeting for several miles by a man hiding his face.

She has received emails asking her to choose the manner of her death and anonymous phone calls saying she was being watched.

On the phone she has also been told to expect a slow and painful death. There have been many such calls.

Ironically she is the councillor with responsibility for health and wellbeing of the people in this city.

It is two years since the Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in the streets of her own constituency, a slaughter that shocked the nation.

Security has been stepped up for politicians in Brighton and Hove because Karen Barford is not alone in being threatened.

One Labour councillor told me of abuse hurled at him and what made it even worse was that much of it came from members of his own party.

It would be wrong to suppose that abuse or even assassination are new to British politics.

The only assassination of a prime minister, Spencer Perceval, took place just over two centuries ago and several attempts were made to end the life of Queen Victoria.

But what seems new is the sustained and organised nature of much abuse and an increased willingness of some to take physical action.

Journalists are not immune to threats and I had plenty of them when I was a reporter for 44 years, 30 of them on The Argus.

Covering courts on a daily basis, I was regularly told I would be beaten up if cases were not kept out of the paper. They never were.

I was also offered large bribes, often accompanied by an underlying hint of violence, by men I knew to be villains.

People who disliked what I had written often threatened me.

One man said he knew what time I left the office, then in North Road, and he would be waiting to run me over.

I had no particular finishing time and was late if stories were troublesome but I did look up North Road carefully that evening.

One man took the time and trouble to ring me hourly at home for a week, day and night. Another I caught snooping around the back of my home.

A few of these calls were political, threatening all kinds of misfortunes if I did not take a certain line on stories.

They only made me more determined to write the truth as I saw it.

I never minded a robust verbal attack on me in print or at meetings even if I felt it was unfair. I seldom replied in the paper to readers’ tirades because I felt they had a right of reply.

But it is never nice to be abused and the widespread use of social media makes this so easy to do.

The best reaction is to ignore the inane and most of it will soon go away but there are exceptions and any hint of violence should go to the police.

I am glad to see the new Labour city council leader has taken a robust stance on his issue.

Daniel Yates says people can disagree with politicians as much as they like and this is part of the job.

But he adds: “Don’t threaten us with a slow and painful death.”

Tony Janio, the Conservative opposition leader, has described the death threats to Karen Barford and others as shocking.

They are illegal and they are also a threat to democracy as shown in the hounding of an elected councillor.

There is also a worrying fear that a disproportionate percentage of victims are women at the very time when they are being encouraged to stand for election.

Daniel Yates says: “The impact for the city is that one of our brightest newer councillors has stepped back from the limelight to remove the threat to her own personal safety by a tiny minority.”

He adds: “As a city we can do better than that – let’s prove it.”

I couldn’t agree more.