Let’s create a positive legacy for Jo Cox

 

The tragic death of Jo Cox is a potent symbol of what Britain in 2016 has become.

A society in which blame of the other, hatred of those with differing  opinions and distrust of MPs have all sadly become de rigueur.

Yet she is also a beacon of what one human being can do to change the course of politics and something good has to come from her tragic death.

She entered the House of Commons just a year ago  and campaigned fervently to change government policy on refugees. George Osborne said tonight that Jo would never know how many lives she has changed. What a fitting tribute.

Any aspiring MP should watch her fabulous maiden speech and wonder if they could do the same. I have been considering the idea and she has made me want to try.

Leaving aside the many things I would like to see changed from a policy perspective, I simply want to stand to see tolerance and respect back in our public life.

The onion of British intolerance in 2016 can be peeled back layer by layer.

Earlier in the year I wrote a blog piece criticising journalist Allison Pearson who within minutes of the Brussels attacks was trying to use these events to justify Brexit. Initially she apologised via email but within a short space of time, Allison blocked me from viewing her tweets. A journalist from a respected broadsheet in 2016 decides to block a member of the public from viewing her tweets because she does not like to be challenged – is this Britain or some form of African dictatorship we live in ?

And so it continued, back in May in predictable fashion, the Daily Express penned a piece bemoaning the cost of school places, for children who have at least one EU parent. As I fall into this category, suddenly I have become a drain on the state due to my choice of marital partner (terribly sorry British public for not asking permission before popping the question, how awfully inconsiderate of me!)

Last week  we saw a UKIP poster, reminiscent of 1930’s Germany with a queue of refugees as a way of scaring people to Vote Leave. Using the suffering of others to gain votes in a referendum has to be a new low in British politics.

If I am ever lucky enough to enter the hallowed world of the Commons my maiden speech would start with the famous words of Koffi Annan “Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity”.

This is the legacy of Jo Cox. Rather than her death  frightening me off going into public life it’s had the opposite effect. I hope others feel the same way.

* Chris Key is dad of two girls, multilingual and internationalist. He is a Lib Dem member in Twickenham who likes holding the local council and MPs to account.

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26 Comments

  • Matt (Bristol) 20th Jun '16 - 10:13am

    In the wider context, I feel rather strongly you should have left the word ‘African’ out of the sentence on dictatorships.

  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Jun '16 - 10:14am

    Good for you.

  • Jo Cox’s death is more connected to the failures of the care system than deep political divisions. What rather too many articles are doing at the moment is blaming political opponents for the actions of a mentally ill middle aged man acting alone.
    This wasn’t an assassination. or act organised terrorism or a symbol collapse of civil debate. It was a murder committed by mentally ill paranoid person that is being used in a dubious way to score political points.

  • Glenn 20th Jun ’16 – 11:58am……….Jo Cox’s death is more connected to the failures of the care system than deep political divisions. What rather too many articles are doing at the moment is blaming political opponents for the actions of a mentally ill middle aged man acting alone.
    This wasn’t an assassination. or act organised terrorism or a symbol collapse of civil debate. It was a murder committed by mentally ill paranoid person that is being used in a dubious way to score political points………….

    I disagree…I don’t think there’s much doubt that the divisive and increasingly xenophobic nature of the ‘Leave’ campaign played a major part in her murder….

    Her alleged killer, Thomas Mair, replied: “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain,” when asked to give his name at his court appearance on Saturday.

    On Friday evening I thought I was having a sensible discussion with several acquaintances prior to a visit to the theatre…Within a few minutes the argument of an otherwise rational person had become, in her words, “I’m voting out because Britain has become a country inundated with migrants taking jobs, school places and housing”….

    If the ‘Leave’ campaign, which has been playing on such fears, elicits such a response from the rational, how much more effect does it have on the ‘irrational’?

  • Matt (Bristol) 20th Jun '16 - 1:47pm

    Glenn – Is there any report that Thomas Mair been sectioned for treatment or given treatment following his arrest? He seems to be being treated as if he knew what he was doing.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Jun '16 - 3:03pm

    A fine piece. I believe the tragedy to be the result of both mentioned separately above.An assassination based on ideology of hate and the lone villainy of a deranged man.

    There is a politically correct tendency to let evil off the hook as a form of madness.

    Don Quixote was mad and it is almost a compliment. The murderer of Jo Cox clearly possessed a type of warped mind that expresses itself through barbarity and cruelty.

    Some of the most wicked perpetrators of criminality are clearly insane.It matters not one jot whether on the scale of Hitler and political or of the murder by one of one other, if the person is motivated by hate of someone good.

    The killer of Jo Cox was and is a man so obviously fired up by vile notions as expressed in his horrible statement in court. His victim was and shall ever be the epitome of decency and that which is precious and must be nurtured, a truly good person and talented professional.

    The argument is now in favour of the prevention of such things and the punishment of such thugs.

  • Glenn

    “What rather too many articles are doing at the moment is blaming political opponents”

    I would agree that a lot of behaviour surrounding Jo Cox’s death has been rather distasteful (especially some of the stuff within 24 hours). Also I think looking to attach the Leave campaign to the event is ridiculous.

    However if (as now starts to look to be the case) this was a killing with a political motive it is fair to call it domestic terrorism.

    expats

    “I don’t think there’s much doubt that the divisive and increasingly xenophobic nature of the ‘Leave’ campaign played a major part in her murder”

    I think there can be plenty of doubt at this point. So far we appear to be able to ascertain that he appeared to be motivated by hate but not the source of that hate or what would have helped deal with it. The killer may have been boiling and plotting this for some time (since well before the referendum campaign was called). We shouldn’t rush to judge until we know the facts, and that will come from the police investigation.

    Most of the Leave campaign has been nonsense and certain aspects have been unpleasant but to claim it is responsible for murder is hyperbolic.

  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Jun '16 - 4:01pm

    @ Glen,
    It has been noticeable that many have rushed to take the line that you have taken, without a shred of evidence to back up the idea that one can attribute this brutal murder to ‘mental illness’, or a ‘failure of the care system’. Why might this be?

    The idea that wickedness and evil are necessarily the consequences of mental illness, reinforces an outdated stereotype about mental illness. Many people suffer different forms of mental illness during their lifetime and they do not, and never would harm anyone.

    Perhaps we should wait until the influences that Thomas Mair was exposed to, and his mental health status are revealed in court.

  • Jayne you can look it up on line, The night before the attack Mair had asked for help. He was told to make an appoint. Cox was killed three hundred yards from the day care centre he normally visited. He had a long history of mental health problems. In truth he has more in common with John Hinckley or Mark Chapman than a “terrorist”. He mentally ill person and just like the dude who attacked that fella on the underground. There’s no organisation involved, just the act of a lone unstable person.
    Terrorism isn’t a loner killing someone. it is an organised act by a group.

  • @Psi “I think there can be plenty of doubt at this point.”

    I would agree, from what little we know, it is not clear whether Mair was actually waiting for Jo, or whether it was just one of those co-instances that put’s people in the wrong place at the wrong time with fatal consequences (according to some witnesses Jo had intervened in an argument between two men). Let us hope the police are able to piece together the various witness statements to form a sequence of actions and events that makes sense of the tragedy.

  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Jun '16 - 10:04pm

    @ Glen,
    Forensic psychiatrists will make a judgment as to whether Mair’s obscene act was due to a mental incapacity.

    Rather than the names you mention, from what I have read so far Mair has more in common with all the ‘loners’ who have been discovered sitting in their rooms surrounded by neo-nazi literature and nail bombs etc.

    Police investigations will uncover any extremist links if they exist. My own view comes from the Rogers and Hammerstein song in South Pacific. ‘You’ve got to be carefully taught’. ( to hate) With some vulnerable individuals this isn’t too difficult. This is why one should must be careful when using political rhetoric.

  • @Jayne
    I don’t think sweeping judgements about personality types (“loners”) are any more helpful or accurate than sweeping generalisations about people with mental illnesses. In the days following the murder I saw numerous headlines describing Mair as “quiet”, as if this explained something or other.

    Plenty of the most violent people are gregarious but for some reason this is never thought to be worthy of mention. In the hours following the Orlando massacre, initial reports told us that Mateen was a “loner”. Then it turned out that one of his favourite activities was chatting up strangers in nightclubs, which is distinctly un-loner-like behaviour. It’s time these lazy stereotypes were dispensed with.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Jun '16 - 11:20pm

    Jayne Mansfield 20th Jun ’16 – 10:04pm is right that ” Forensic psychiatrists will make a judgment” about Mair. Section 28 of the Mental Health Act 1983 is a possibility. Trial for murder is a possibility. Pre-trial in the UK the presumption of innocence applies.

  • Jayne.
    I just read what his family said, what his neighbour said and look at what his known medical history so far seems to suggest. Obviously, there’s no way to be certain at this stage.

  • ” ‘You’ve got to be carefully taught’. ( to hate) With some vulnerable individuals this isn’t too difficult. This is why one should must be careful when using political rhetoric. ”

    If we were dealing with Trump, I would agree. Trump advocates violence, and therefore deserves blame when it happens.

    By contrast, whilst Farage and the main Vote Leave campaigners certainly have many serious faults, I don’t think they have ever advocated or expressed sympathy for violence. It would therefore be unfair to suggest that they should be considered in any way to be to blame for Jo Cox’s murder.

    It would also be unwise. The Leave campaigners know perfectly well that their personalities – as a bunch of ambitious mavericks with a hidden agenda – are one of their weak points. Nothing would please them more than to be attacked in a demonstrably unfair way. They would respond to the effect “When Remain attack us, they’re always wrong, they’re always just being nasty and unreasonable.” Let’s not give them any grounds to make that response.

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Jun '16 - 12:31am

    @ stuart,
    I am not making a sweeping generalisation. Perhaps I have not made myself clear. I am linking what I have read in this case, to how other similar cases have been reported. It is the impression that news media give that I a commenting on, hence the quotation marks around the description ‘loner’.

    Over a third of people think that people with mental health problems are likely to be violent. In fact, the majority of violent crimes and homicides are committed by individuals who do not have mental health problems. Even if this man has a known mental health problems it may be one that does not explain his behaviour.

    What I object to is the speculation about the causes of this man’s behaviour before there has been a thorough investigation, and the reinforcement of the notion that people with mental health problems are a particular danger to the public..

  • Farage’s “We Want our Country back”, “Time to take back control” is pure rabble rousing….
    IMO.. from his “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain” words, the perpetrator thought he was doing just that…..

    I have, in my 73 years, never seen such a divided Britain, never seen arguments so quickly descend into insults….Rational argument has been replaced by slogans and statements that I thought had been consigned to a far less tolerant age….We no longer have European ‘neighbours’; we have ” France and Germany who are only looking after themselves”…I have been called disloyal, that I should be “ashamed of myself”….

    Feelings are running high and are being inflamed by Farage’s brand of ‘Brexit’ that has taken over from the Johnson/Gove approach…
    I worry that, post referendum, we may have trouble putting “Humpty Dumpty” back together again…

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Jun '16 - 10:43am

    @ David Allen,
    I don’t know whether you have ever been present when the EDL protest along with assorted Britain First, BNP flag wavers and screamers, but even I at my age do attend when they descend on my area.

    I know raw hate when I see it, I have had ‘traitor’ spat at me, been been accused at of supporting ‘paedophiles’ and ‘homophobes’ by faces contorted by it, plus all the rest of the rubbish spouted, and I am very grateful to the police who allow people like myself to stand in silence and show our contempt for their attempts to stir up hatred. in our locality.

    It doesn’t take much for someone to stir them up and add to their numbers. That is why I say that it is important not to use inflammatory rhetoric. There are some who are capable of hair-trigger violence especially when they have had alcohol.

    It is for this reason why my sadness prevents me from functioning normally. Jo Cox was a courageous woman who did not hide herself behind a pseudonym, as my husband insisted that I should, when I started to post on here. She and other MPs continue to make themselves open and available even though they knew that there are people out there who hate them for their politics.

    Jo Cox was not murdered in Darfur, she was murdered in a pleasant little town in Britain and we should remain mindful of that, and stop pretending that some of the political discourse we hear not only has a coarsening effect on our culture but is also dangerous.

    Seeing Jo Cox’s loving , dignified family, and hearing of the way that they are trying to deal with her tragic death, teaches us something really important. We can also be taught to love.

    @ Expats,
    I agree. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, I fear for the country after the deep divisions that have been opened up.

  • expats
    “I worry that, post referendum, we may have trouble putting “Humpty Dumpty” back together again…”
    Do you think you have improved matters by basically associating the motives of one crazy murderer, with millions of genuinely concerned ‘Leavers’? Whatever Fridays result,.. how are you going to reconcile with Leavers this coming weekend who are being told surreptitiously by the likes of Will Straw MP, and Stephen Kinnock MP, that Leavers are filled with only hate, and are a whisker away from being heartless killers?

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Jun '16 - 11:15am

    @ John Dunn,
    What nonsense JDunn.

    It is quite clear that any criticism is against those who use dog whistles and inflammatory speech mindless of the effect they can have, and not those, who in their judgement, intend to vote leave because they think the best course for the country.

    I haven’t been making accusations across the breakfast table at my husband who until this week was for leave, but is now less certain.

  • J Dunn 21st Jun ’16 – 10:50am
    expats
    “I worry that, post referendum, we may have trouble putting “Humpty Dumpty” back together again…”
    Do you think you have improved matters by basically associating the motives of one crazy murderer, with millions of genuinely concerned ‘Leavers’? ……

    That is NOT what I said….I specifically identified Farage’s comments…The same Farage who defended ‘the poster’ that Johnson and Gove distanced themselves from ( Gove to the extent that he said, “It made me shudder”)…

    The vast majority of ‘Leavers’ are people of principle who’s views I can respect (if disagree with)…However, those are not just the people that Farage is addressing; like Trump, he goes from ‘sanity to insanity’ in a moment…Legitimate concerns about immigration and the rule of parliament are hijacked under ‘rabble-rousing slogans’. He is the leader of a party whose members/officials, over the years, have indulged in the most inflammatory language I’ve heard since the 1960s; they are still there….

  • My intention was not to just comment on some of the more sinister sides of the Leave campaign but also to demonstrate what an excellent role model Jo Cox is for aspiring Members of Parliament and how she worked effectively cross party to get things done rather than being tribal.

  • Sue Sutherland 21st Jun '16 - 2:28pm

    Chris Key. I agree that Jo was able to work cross party to achieve her goals. In her last article for her local paper she suggested that the money gathered from migrants taxes should be returned to the local economy in which they live to boost public services. She realised that there was some truth in peoples’ fears and was trying to address that.
    I am concerned that we who abhore racism tend to ignore the problems which fuel that racism rather than trying to mitigate their effect as Jo was trying to do. If the practical problems are real then surely we should be sorting them out not leaving them to fuel the emotions that UKIP has stirred up.
    I believe it would be a fitting tribute to Jo to have a cross party initiative to help those areas affected by migration, either in the way she suggested or by other means, whatever the result of the referendum.

  • David Allen 21st Jun '16 - 5:22pm

    Jayne Mansfield, you are of course quite right to say that the EDL, Britain First and the BNP are merchants of hate. But should the Leave campaign as a whole be tarred with the same brush?

    Expats, you claim that the words “Time to take back control”, which you ascribe to Farage, are “pure rabble-rousing”, and then say “IMO.. from his “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain” words, the perpetrator thought he was doing just that…..”. That’s a disgraceful piece of exaggeration and hyperbole. The “Take back control” slogan is directed toward the EU’s democratic deficit, which this Inner would acknowledge as a perfectly fair (if overstated) point for the Outers to make. As a slogan, it is simply light years away from the murderer’s crazy boast.

    Farage is a mendacious, mean-spirited racist. Attack him for his inhumanity and his blithe insensitivity to human suffering, and you will win most people’s sympathy. Farage is not a murderer, he is not a closet supporter of violence, and while he seeks to advance an odious agenda, he does so through the ballot box. If you attack him on specious grounds, if you ludicrously suggest that he is in league with murder, then you will deservedly forfeit people’s sympathy.

  • Simon Banks 25th Jun '16 - 7:33pm

    I can’t see why it’s either/or. A lot of people in the hate-filled sections of extremism have mental health problems, I’m sure. Yes, we can learn about the care system, but as this man had not previously attacked someone, had not been sectioned and had not self-referred, there are limits to what a partially liberal society can do. I am sure, too, that the hatred and deep suspicion fostered by Farage and the like contributed to this event, particularly to his choice of victim.

    So what can we do for Jo Cox? Try to be civilised in political debate? Yes, I can go with that, and open. A social media “friend” of mine in a literary context was a strong YES supporter in the last Scottish referendum. Her posts were distinctly unpleasant about ALL Westminster politicians (presumably including the Scots) and I asked if say, Gordon Brown or Charles Kennedy were really more cunning and cynical than Alex Salmond. That was blocked. She went on being personal about the NO leaders. I tried again. That was blocked. So no debate, no exchange of views. So I unfriended her. Pity, but what was the point otherwise?

    But also we should think seriously about turning the pro-European, progressive, pro-diversity, pro-equality, pro-liberty, pro-green alliance that began emerging online too late in the EU referendum campaign into some kind of co-operation – not a pact – across party lines and into non-party organisations such as Avaaz and Friends of the Earth.

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