5 Days Remaining

Saturday 18th
posted by Morning Star in Features

While questions remain about the killing of Jo Cox, rampant xenophobia stoked up by the British press has doubtless played its part, writes RABBIL SIKDAR

AN MP was murdered. Let those words sink in. A day that began with many, such as myself, in excitement about a football match ended in grief, shock and sadness. The death of Jo Cox has affected everyone.

Something like this was not supposed to happen, even if something like this very nearly happened some years ago.

In 2010 Stephen Timms MP was stabbed but survived. What happened yesterday seems unthinkable.

Multiple gunshots and a knife wound have left a country without a brilliant MP and a family without an amazing woman.

Cox was one of those principled idealists: celebrating diversity, imploring her peers to aid the refugees and someone whose background was built around charity work.

Her pride in representing her constituency was clear, and the sorrow her constituents felt in her death was evident. She spoke about helping child refugees, spoke up for Syrians when no-one else did, and defended how diversity strengthened society rather than weakening it.

In a time when celebrating diversity openly can be political suicide, Cox stuck to her beliefs and never wavered. Her death is a tragedy for all. She was an MP for such a short period of time but she achieved much.

From which some things can be discerned. The first is that in the age of anti-Establishment disconnection with the political class, the idea that all MPs are corrupt is fundamentally wrong. Never mind that it weakens political participation and entrenches a sleeping democracy, it twists the work of good people.

Cox was one of these good people, a tireless campaigner for rights, justice and fairness. She wasn’t corrupt. She was elected last year out of a desire to do good and to help others.

A hashtag spread on Twitter called #ThankyourMP. It’s a reminder that these are ultimately people who have family and lives like the rest of us.

And while there is undoubtedly a self-serving corrupt circle within Westminster, there are many like Cox who simply wanted to help her constituents.

The other is that British politics has never felt more toxic. The last few weeks of intense EU campaigning have been bitter and unpleasant, with vitriolic arguments exchanged back and forth.

The apathy of the working class towards those they perceive to be part of an elite network is evident.

The EU debate has been hostile to different opinions, treated people’s concerns with sneering contempt and shown what a rotten country Britain has become.

Xenophobia is rampant, the fear stoked and nurtured by the right-wing Establishment greater than ever.

This debate became all about racism and the picture of Nigel Farage in front of a billboard of refugees encapsulated how far some on the right are willing to enter the territory of nazi propaganda to score a political point.

And it’s this stoking of xenophobia over the last few years that has created space for the resurgence of the far right. No-one expected what happened on Thursday. But it did.

When you focus so strongly on immigrants and make them the lightning rod for all criticism, there will be a response, an extreme one.

Cox’s alleged killer has already been reported to have fascistic neo­nazi links, apparently shouting: “Britain First” as he killed her.

Does that make the likes of Farage and others responsible? No, but it should make them question the effect their words can have when they keep hammering away with the idea that immigrants get “preferential treatment” above ordinary British people.

We have played the politics of “other” before and it’s still the same nasty, vicious and cruelly heartless politics of fear and division that it was before.

We have laughed at or shown indifference to Britain First and its videos, but the fact that it has thousands of supporters should worry you.

For too long we have regarded the far right as just an irrelevant fringe. But look at the EU debate, look at how we talk about Muslims — the far right is anything but irrelevant. It is growing, not shrinking.

Again, how the media and certain politicians talk matters hugely.

The last point I gathered was the incredible white privilege that still exists within the media. The killer’s possible motives were probed in an attempt to magnify his humanity as a struggling individual.

Yet it appears that he sought to intimidate those of a certain opinion with his actions.

If the alleged killer was brown he would have been called a terrorist. He would not be reduced to a lone gunman.

But right now politics feels like an awful thing. Cox’s death has jarred both sides of the EU campaign but maybe it should be jarring us all — to reconsider how we approach politics, to consider the effect of our words and actions.

The sadness I feel is nothing compared to what her family and those who knew her must feel.

In an age of political cynicism when MPs can do nothing right but everything wrong, Cox was a shining light of what British politics should be like.

Her passion, idealism and belief in social justice should inspire people to work in her memory and honour her commitment.