When we should have remembered Jo for her public service, politicians were using her death to make a political statement, something that I imagine Jo would have never wished for.
On 16 June, Labour MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered on the streets of her constituency in West Yorkshire just one week before the country headed to the polls to vote in the EU referendum. Jo had been a staunch supporter of the Remain campaign, and many believed that she was murdered for her political views.
On 18 June, murder suspect Thomas Mair told a court in the United Kingdom that his name is “Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain”, adding further speculation over his motives for the killing. Amid the shock over the incident, UKIP Students Chairman, Thomas Collins, writes for the IPF about his experience of being a Leave supporter in the aftermath of Jo Cox’s murder.
Jo Cox, Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen, died on 16 June 2016 after being shot and stabbed. She was an excellent woman who served her constituents well. Her death is a shock for all of those involved in politics and the global response to her death, from figures like Barack Obama, reflected how much of a loss she is to British politics.
I was shocked when I first heard about the shooting and it was a tragedy that she did not pull through the injuries sustained from the attack. However, I felt that the reaction to Jo’s death was truly shocking from journalists and politicians alike. There was an attempt to associate her death with the campaign to leave the European Union following alleged reports that the suspect shouted “Britain First”. However, witnesses in the area have denied the gunman ever said this and have also retracted their initial comments about the suspect saying those words.
The backlash that followed against the Leave campaign was totally unjustified. Political capital was gained from her death by many just one week ahead of the referendum.
Will Straw, Campaign Director of Britain Stronger in Europe, was accused of “exploiting” Jo’s murder by urging the Remain campaign to target the Leave campaign in the wake of her death. David Cameron also shared an article written by Jo to further the argument to stay in the EU. When we should have remembered Jo for her public service, politicians were using her death to make a political statement – something that I imagine Jo would have never wished for.
A political party or cause cannot be blamed for a single, lone man’s pre-motivated attack. There will always be people within society that attempt to sow the seeds of division through these kinds of killings.
While we cannot stop every attack, as tolerant individuals, we should continue to challenge the behaviour of groups that promote fascist and neo-Nazi values like National Action and Britain First.
I think it is right that the major political parties are not going to have candidates standing against the Labour Party in the upcoming by-election. Jo’s life should have never been lost and, as a result, it is right that the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP are not putting a candidate forward. I also hope to see the Labour Party choose a candidate from the local area, rather than use a tragic death to parachute a candidate into safe seat.
As for me, I will carry on supporting UKIP for the initial reasons I joined the party. I want to give power back to people through advancing direct democracy and I want to promote policies that seek to further aspiration among people who have been left behind in society. Despite the attempts to link Jo’s murder with right-wing parties, I will carry on encouraging people of all demographics to support my party and these values.