Jo Cox’s tragic murder today marks the crossing of a new and terrible threshold. Our politics of hate and fear-mongering have frightened people and poisoned the minds of many with hatred and violence. Is this where Britain is truly heading?
News that a young woman, a mother of two young children, had been the victim of a frenzied knife and gun attack on the streets of Birstall, West Yorkshire, shocked Britain this afternoon. An hour later the victim, Jo Cox, the 41 year old Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen, was pronounced dead in hospital. In her maiden speech in the House of Commons last year Jo spoke passionately of how her constituency had been “deeply enhanced by immigration.” As a former humanitarian aid worker, she brought to her political career a real commitment to justice and fairness, and was outspoken in her condemnation of the right turn British mainstream politics has taken, and today it looks as though she has paid for her convictions with her life.
This is not an attempt to use Jo Cox’s murder and the grief of her family and friends as a platform for a position on the EU referendum. People must be free to vote freely and according to their consciences. This afternoon’s tragic events change nothing of that fundamental right. Rather, this is a bitter condemnation of the awful and miserable state of post-truth British politics. Jo’s killer, a 52 year old man named locally as Tommy Mair, was reported by witnesses to be shouting “Britain First!” as he viciously assaulted her on a busy lunchtime street close to her constituency office.
Her murder, other than it being despicable in and of itself, was an attack on our democracy and the freedom we have to elect our own lawmakers and public representatives. On top of this it bears all the hallmarks of a xenophobic and hate-driven political assassination of a politician standing up for diversity and inclusivity in the midst of a global refugee crisis the British government and establishment is doing everything in its power to ignore. Jo Cox died because one man feared that her politics posed an existential threat to his sense of racial and ethnic Britishness. No doubt he saw his actions as a patriotic defence of his imagined besieged Britain. Leaving the European Union may well be the best thing for Britain. It may prove to be an unmitigated disaster, but right now who cares?
Throughout the entire EU referendum campaign immigration (not white Polish or French immigration, but coloured immigration from Turkey and Syria) has been at the heart of the Leave argument. It has been okay for Boris Johnson to mislead the public on the possibility of Turkey joining the EU and to lie about tens of millions of Muslim Turkish immigrants “swarming” the UK and devouring the Health Service. Nigel Farage has been unchecked in his overtly racist representation of Syrian “migrants” storming the floodgates of Britain’s way of life. It is no wonder that people – under the shadow of the real Project Fear – the length and breadth of the United Kingdom are living in fear that their Britain is being “invaded,” and what people do when threatened with invasion is “defend.”
Jo Cox’s horrific murder was not the action of a bad apple. She may have been killed by the violent actions of one man, but this is the end result in any society where people have been callously manipulated into believing that their very existence is on the line. There can be no question that Tommy Mair, poisoned by the fear-mongering of Britain First and the hateful rhetoric of UKIP and Boris’ Little Englander Tories, like countless other “Tommies,” sees himself as a fighter in this new and completely invented Battle of Britain. Vote as we will this day week, we have now crossed a dangerous threshold and stand on the precipice of this being the disgusting reality of a post-Brexit Britain.
God rest Jo, bless those who mourn her, and God save us all.
Jo Cox MP Speaks on Aleppo Crisis