Labour MP Jo Cox was tragically stabbed outside Birstall public library, West Yorkshire in broad daylight where she was about to hold a surgery for constituents on Thursday 16 June. This incident has cast a shadow over the EU referendum campaign and led to an all too temporary pause in campaigning and a period of sober reflection.
Jeremy Corbyn spoke in the House of Commons on Monday 20 June and paid tribute to Mrs Cox’s: “compassion and passion to create a better world and in her honour we recommit ourselves to that task.” When Mr Corbyn visited Mrs Cox’s grave the day after her murder he spoke of a “well of hatred.”
It is into this well of hatred that Nigel Farage, Leader of UKIP, speaks. He tells us he is the man in the pub to whom everyone can relate. Do not be deceived. An hour before Jo Cox was killed, Mr Farage unwittingly launched a referendum poster entitled Breaking Point showing a steady stream of refugees flooding into Britain coupled with a call to take control of Britain’s borders. However, he then has the audacity to accuse the Prime Minister days later of playing “despicable” political tricks in the wake of Mrs Cox’s death.
In fact, Mr Cameron was speaking in support of Jo Cox, a seasoned campaigner with many years’ experience at Oxfam. She campaigned about Syrian refugees and other destitute peoples with authority.
Mr Farage accused the PM and Remain camp of misrepresenting the motives of many British people who simply want control of their borders. Unfortunately polls indicate that while economic arguments may have the greatest significance and impact if Britain leaves the EU, it is immigration above all other issues that determines how people will vote.
Britain must decide whether to embrace the European project and the multiculturalism that has made her great or whether to become “little England” with Scotland once more seeking independence and the future of Northern Ireland uncertain, border controls reinstated. The EU is the most advanced and successful form of cross-border cooperation that the world has ever seen, empowered to manage the power of multi-nationals and mitigate climate change.
It is both desperately sad and very alarming that the man who has been charged with Mrs Cox’s murder gave his name during his first court appearance at as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”
He is an individual and it is highly likely that he is unwell but his statement indicates a fractured society. While the conservatives make the case for national sovereignty and freedom to trade with countries beyond Europe and forge new agreements; UKIP always campaigns about controlling Britain’s borders and in this case closing them to Turkey. The NHS alone would be on its knees without foreign nationals and immigrants working at every level of the health service.
Gordon Brown, wrote in the Guardian on Friday 17 June about Jo Cox: “She wanted us to shout from the rooftops, as she said in her maiden speech, that there is much more that brings us together than drives us apart. She believed our society’s diversity was our greatest strength… (According to her husband) She would not want us to confront hate with hate, but to conquer hate wherever it is found.”
Mr Brown wrote: “Unless we strive for a culture of respect to replace a culture which does too little to challenge prejudice, we will be learning nothing from what happened to Jo.”
About the referendum, tellingly Mr Brown said: “The business of politics has become more about the exploitation of fears than the advancement of hope.” While the Remain campaign is accused of “Project Fear” it is UKIP that exploits fears about immigration mercilessly, fears about jobs and pressures on public services.
The EU provides jobs, about half of UK trade, national security and allows free movement of labour for the British to work in Europe as well as Europeans to work here. Britain is sovereign within Europe and is part of a 28 strong trading family. She would still have to apply EU rules to retain access to the single market if she leaves the EU.
“If Britain votes out, it is irreversible”, Mr Cameron said. Vote remain.
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