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Clinton warns U.K. headed for 'fascism' as politics turns nasty

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By Patrick Smith  with NBC News World News
Image: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during an even
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during an event promoting "The Book of Gutsy Women" at the Southbank Centre in London on Sunday.   -   Copyright  Simon Dawson

LONDON — The U.K. is spiraling towards authoritarianism and fascism, according to former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Speaking at event at Kings College, London, on Wednesday, Clinton said the reluctance of high-profile women to run for Parliament, amid an increase in online and real-world abuse, showed how toxic British politics had become.

She said she had spoken to several current and former female members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two layers of the British Parliament, who warned of "a growing anxiety among women members about the threats that they face."

"If people are intimidated out of running for office in a democracy because of these hatemongers on the left or the right, motivated by whatever, that's the path of authoritarianism, that's the path of fascism — when you are told you are in danger or your family is," she said. "A number of women have said it's not just threats against themselves but threats against their children."

In conversation with former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Clinton said the departure of people from public life because of intimidation was "not just a threat to individuals [but] a threat to our democracies."

The U.K. is preparing for a general election on Dec. 12, the third in less than five years, as the Conservative-led government desperately seeks a resolution to the Brexit crisis that has paralyzed British political life. Polling day may come days before Christmas but the campaign has so far been lacking in festive cheer.

While it is normal for some members of Parliament to stand down before an election, several notable female politicians have called it a day, citing an almost constant stream of threats and abuse.

Nicky Morgan, 47, who resigned as culture secretary this month and campaigned for the U.K. to remain in the European Union, told the Times of London: "You turn on your emails in the morning and you get a stream of people telling you they'd like to see you dead or how useless they think you are."

Clinton, who has made a number of public appearances this month to promote a new book, has also said she is "under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about" running for president in 2020 and hadn't ruled out a last-minute bid.

Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, she said: "I think all the time about what kind of president I would have been and what I would have done differently and what I think it would have meant to our country and the world.

"So of course I think about it, I think about it all the time. Being able to do that, and look, whoever wins next time is going to have a big task trying to fix everything that's been broken."