(As a mark of respect for Mrs Cox and her family, TCW will not be publishing any new blogs until tomorrow)
The savage killing of Jo Cox yesterday has shocked the country and rightly brought about a suspension of campaigning in the EU referendum to be held next week. Mrs Cox was a wife, mother of two young children and a Labour MP widely regarded as one of the most dedicated and talented of her party’s new intake at the election last year. Along with millions of decent people across Britain, TCW’s sympathies today lie with her family and friends in their grief for a young life cut short in the most appalling way.
As a Labour MP, Mrs Cox was a figure in public life. Indeed, she was killed while making for her constituency surgery where she, like MPs up and down the country, routinely sought to help local people in her Yorkshire town with their many and various problems. In that sense, the attack on her was an attack on all Parliamentarians and on the political process. As Paul Goodman, the editor of ConservativeHome, points out in a thoughtful piece today, MPs are increasingly targets, if not of physical assault, though that appears to be happening more often, certainly of verbal and written abuse. As society becomes increasingly atomised, so the risks to those in public life increase.
Mrs Cox was also a supporter of the Remain campaign. Her husband Brendan took part in the counter-demonstration on The Thames on Wednesday against Nigel Farage’s flotilla of fishing boats protesting against the EU’s fishing policy. Attempts are being made, most notably by The Guardian in an editorial today to link her death to the movement seeking to persuade the British public to sever its ties with Brussels.
TCW rejects such linkage. All the available evidence at this early stage suggests that the suspected killer Thomas Mair was deranged. He has a long history of mental illness and has indeed spoken of his treatment and how volunteering at a local park had helped him combat his troubles.
According to a detailed report in today’s Daily Mail, Mair had never shown any interest in politics or the referendum. According to some accounts, he shouted “Britain First” while attacking Mrs Cox, an apparent reference to an obscure far-right group playing no part in the Brexit campaign. Whether or not Mair said those words has no bearing on the arguments about uncontrolled migration at the heart of the referendum debate.
In short, Mrs Cox was killed by a crazed loner whose brutal actions are unconnected with the great national debate over Britain’s destiny. Attempts to suggest otherwise are false and amount to a bid to exploit her tragic death for political purposes.
As TCW has so often commented, there is a broader point here. The Left, and by extension, some elements of the Remain campaign, want to shut down debate over immigration. For many years, they achieved that goal, not least by insisting that anyone troubled by mass migration and the pressures it puts on our country, was a vile racist, not fit for polite society. Political correctness was a stifling blanket succeeding for too long in denying Britain, which virtually invented free speech, the right to debate openly the impact of importing on a vast scale unfamiliar cultures and attitudes. One bonus of the referendum debate has been to throw off that blanket and rediscover the value of vigorous and unfettered argument.
We grieve today for Mrs Cox, her husband and their children. But we insist on the right freely to go on making the case for Britain to regain its independence on Thursday.