Politicians, perhaps quite rightly, have a bad reputation. The expenses scandal, constant flip-flopping on issues, and just a widespread sense that they achieve very little, have done nothing to improve their public image. However, the murder of Jo Cox is a timely reminder – in the most tragic of circumstances – that politics still attracts good people for the right reasons.
Amidst the partisan bickering between ministers and statesmen clamouring their way up the greasy pole, countless backbench MPs like Ms Cox put in the hours for their constituents. Indeed in her final moments, she was doing just that; holding her weekly surgery for the people of Batley and Spen. Myriad testimonies have emerged of her hardworking and committed nature; a staunch advocate for the benefits of immigration and passionate campaigner for Britain to do more to help the victims of Syria’s civil war. Both sides of the EU referendum, in their final days of campaigning, would do well to adopt a similar tone of hope and unity over their increasingly doomsday rhetoric.
In attacking Ms Cox, the perpetrator attacked her values of tolerance and unity. This is a rare incident, but we must be careful not to allow xenophobic attitudes to entering the political mainstream; the EU referendum has taken the debate over immigration too far and, in my opinion, to the point of fantasy and scare-mongering. Brexit or not, it must not vindicate a xenophobic agenda. Whatever the outcome, the politics of hope, of community and solidarity, must remain the underlying sentiment.
This is important because, though the motives of the killer are not yet completely known, it appears that he shared some affiliation with far-right white supremacist elements; he was a subscriber to a pro-apartheid South African magazine produced by ‘White Rhino Club’ and frequently purchased literature from a US based neo-Nazi group. The most concerning revelation has been that the man supposedly screamed either ‘put Britain first’ or ‘Britain first’ during the attack. If the latter, this could be in reference to the far-right political party of the same name lead by Paul Golding. Though Golding has today distanced the party from the attack, their continued espousal of Islamophobic vitriol will do nothing to alleviate the socially polarising effects of such rhetoric which this murder may indeed illuminate.
Between what is often seen as a self-interested cartel of Machiavellian stooges jostling for power, and the venom of far-right groups, stands Jo Cox; embodying a sharp rebuke of both and a shining testament to everything that can be good about politics: tenacity, passion, tolerance, solidarity, and hope. It was truly a refreshing sight to see #ThankYourMP trending on Twitter last night; a humbling statement of respect and goodwill for those politicians who really care passionately about their communities. Though inspired by the tragic loss of one of our best, hopefully politics will continue to learn from the example set by Jo Cox in the months and weeks ahead.