U.K. assassination casts shadow over 'Brexit' campaigns



**U.K. assassination casts shadow over ‘Brexit’ campaigns

LONDON — The heated campaign over whether Britain should leave the European Union came to an abrupt halt Thursday following the assassination of a member of Parliament who played a visible role campaigning for continued membership in the EU.

Police would not comment on a possible motive of the fatal shooting and stabbing of Labour Party MP Jo Cox, 41, by a lone assailant as she met with constituents…

Cox’s assailant, by one account, repeatedly shouted the name of a far-right political group that favors a British exit, or “Brexit,” from the EU.**

Clarke Rothwell, who runs a cafe near the murder scene, told the Press Association the assailant “was shouting ‘put Britain first.’ He shouted it about two or three times. He said it before he shot her and after he shot her.”

"Britain First" is also a popular anti-immigrant slogan. The recent flood of migrants into Europe is one of the main reasons cited by those who favor leaving the EU.

Police declined to comment on the report, and Britain First said on its website that it was “not involved and would never encourage behaviour of this sort.”

The day before she was killed, Cox’s family took part in a publicity stunt on the Thames River in support of remaining in the EU. Her group got in a dinghy and motored up and down London’s waterway holding a large flag with the words “In” emblazoned on it.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who also favors continued membership in the EU, cut short a campaign rally in Gibraltar. “We’ve lost a great star,” he said. “She was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion and a big heart.”

At talks in Luxembourg Thursday, Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said ministers observed a moment of silence for Cox. “The U.K. is a beacon for peaceful politics and we hope that the British public, the people of the U.K., can make their choices serenely and in a safe way next week,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

**The slain politician’s husband, Brendan, released a statement urging people to “unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.”

Steven Barnett, a professor of communications at Westminster University in London, said it is too early to speculate whether the assassination will influence public opinion on the referendum, “although I think it will make people think a little more about the messages that have been coming from the Vote Leave camp.”

Barnett pointed out that the murder took place on a day when the anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party unveiled a new “Brexit” poster that features a massive line of refugees stretching off into the horizon next to the words, “Breaking Point: The EU has failed us all.”**

Alex Massie, a blogger for the Spectator magazine, wrote Thursday that it may turn out that “there was no political motivation for this apparently senseless murder.” But noting the heated rhetoric by both sides, he added: "When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged.”

British-born Graham Wilson, professor of political science at Boston University and an expert on British politics, said the pro-Brexit campaign “has done its best to create a climate of anger and hostility about immigration and the presence of foreigners.”

"One warning of this for politicians in every country and every democracy is that if you create a climate of fear and anger targeted on foreigners and other minorities, then there will be a very, very small minority who will do horrendous things responding to that mood," he said.


Excellent piece (A Day of Infamy) in the Spectator by Alex Massie today:

When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word. You didn’t make them do it, no, but you didn’t do much to stop it either.

Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.

(For any American readers, the Spectator is a Conservative weekly which, itself, supports Brexit)


I don’t think the referendum is about foreigners at all (except superficially).

I think it’s about honesty in laws and economics. By voting which way is this more likely? I don’t think anyone, on any side, has made a case for voting either way.


It’s not even about Europe.


**We face a very serious decision next week – but not a terribly difficult one **

The reaction to Mrs Cox’s killing shows people thinking once more about the importance not of experts but the people they choose. The murder of any mother is sharply distressing, but in this case, the sense of loss spreads beyond grief for a widowed husband and two young children. Slightly shamefacedly, we have started reminding one another that MPs are not just the butt of our insults, but the people to whom we entrust something important. If one dies fulfilling that trust, the whole nation is injured.

This is more deeply felt in Britain than in almost any other country, because we worked all this out long ago. In his brilliant book, The English and Their History, published in 2014, Professor Robert Tombs tells the story of the rise of parliamentary government in England (which gradually extended to the whole of the United Kingdom). By the early 18th century, he writes, “Foreign admirers thought that England had somehow stumbled on a working political system which both encouraged and was sustained by science, commerce, reason and liberty.” I found it touching that flowers in Birstall in memory of Jo Cox were placed on the statue of its most famous son, Joseph Priestley, the 18th-century political radical and discoverer of oxygen. Priestley embodied those sustaining qualities.

Until the late 20th century, Britain never really stumbled off the political system Professor Tombs describes. The franchise spread from a couple of hundred thousand property-owners to the entire adult population. Contrary to the fears of the elites, this did not produce mob rule. Very rarely then or – despite the death of Jo Cox – now, has it led to murder. The people chose their lawmakers peacefully and sent them to Parliament. From those chosen, a government was formed. When the people grew tired of those they had put in, they got rid of them and put in others. The classic example was in 1945, when the people voted out their war hero, Winston Churchill, in a Labour landslide. Right or wrong, this was a confident, orderly assertion of the popular will that only parliamentary democracy can sustain.

The European Union was and is deliberately constructed to frustrate that will. Its government is not formed from a parliament or even by a vote. Its rulers cannot be collectively kicked out by electors. Its legislation is initiated by officials. Its court of law, seated in Luxembourg, overrides that of any democracy. It sounds unkind to say it, but if an MEP were murdered, we would all, in human terms, be horrified, but I do not believe we would see it as a threat to our democratic way of life.


Fantastic, beautifully written article here. Great Britain at its best.


**Brexit debate: We’ll be better neighbours outside a superstate

The drive towards a United States of Europe has led to political extremism and massive youth unemployment – leaving is the kindest thing to do**

By moving from a European Economic Community to a European Union and eventually, it hopes, to a United States of Europe, it has also moved away from the model that helped it build peace across the continent. When nations trade with each other they are less likely to fight each other, and the European project, when it was focused on being a common market, did work with Nato to bring stability in the post-war decades.

Now, however, the eurozone and borderless Schengen zone are increasing tensions between nations, rather than reducing them. I want Britain to leave the EU so that we can spend our rising membership fee on the NHS and abolishing VAT on fuel. I want us to leave so that we can control immigration. I hope that Parliament would vote for more refugees from troubled parts of the world if we also had the power to reduce the inward flow of low-skilled labour. I want us to build trading relationships with the parts of the world that are growing and therefore build long-term prosperity for every community in Britain.

Overall, I want us to be good neighbours with our European allies – I just don’t want to be unhappy tenants of the politically dysfunctional and economically declining EU. And, moreover, I hope that Brexit might even shock the EU into reforming. There is so much evidence that the voters of Europe’s great nations – if not the politicians – are as unhappy with Europe’s direction as most Britons are. If we have the courage to say no to European grandiosity, we might encourage them to do the same.


Here is an interesting piece from yesterday, Catholic Herald. Sounds like he is sticking his neck out a bit, but I think he is right - in time this analysis of the EU will be clear, regardless of how the vote goes this time around. This issue will linger, like Scottish independence. I also wonder if this incident (the assassination of the MP) could help the Brexit vote too, though I admit that is counter-intuitive and probably unlikely - the fact is a lot of Brits do support Leave and I am interested to see how they handle Remain’s treatment of the issue in the coming days, including after the election. This question about the EU is clearly getting quarrelsome and disruptive. The country is pretty much divided, 50-50. Remain or Leave winning is not going to create a big happy united family.


I think originally a lot of people didn’t have their mind made up but are now leaning leave after seeing Nigel Farage lay out the very bleak future of Europe as she currently stands in very blunt but I would argue necessary terms as well as other Leave campaigners urgency, I would say the remainers are getting flustered.

If Leave wins, the UK will be able to manage its own affairs and eventually things will get better for the UK. And the only people who may be mad would be those who lost out on EU subsidies, which would be rather ironic since the UK doles out over $20 billion a year to the EU.


I think every voter in the UK needs to see the Brexit film. This gives a good view of the Leave campaign and their reasons are absolutely solid.

Those who really want to remain in the UK are probably a mix of idealists who aren’t paying any taxes or those who are getting subsidies from the EU among others I am sure.

The fact is the EU is evolving into a federal dictatorship. The bailouts, the migrant situation, the lack of competition is all taking its toll.

Really, just look at Switzerland. The UK really doesn’t need the EU at all.


The Remain side was getting flustered and actually falling behind until an extreme nationalist assassinated a young female Labour MP. (and btw I have a lot more faith in Boris Johnson than Nigel Farage - I think Johnson was leading the Leave cause much more effectively)

I think the British are more level-headed and committed to a sense of decency and fair play than those of us here in the colonies. From what I can see, there is considerable restraint in painting the Leave supporters with the extremist nationalist brush, but I could be wrong. The Scottish referendum was really nasty and aggressive, so there is some reason to doubt my optimism. But I think this smear strategy, were it employed, would backfire. The cause is popular; the Leave have the superior argument in terms of the future of Britain (IMHO). I hope the country will get back to the referendum with cooler heads prevailing - Leave could still take it. They were pretty much on course to do so.

After what Obama and much of the left did here to Republicans and Christians after Orlando, I am a little gun shy. (no pun intended) I think the British have a better chance of controlling the dialogue than we do. America has really lost it in that regard. You are not a bigoted neo-Nazi if you worry about Islamic terrorism or happen to attend a Christian Church or oppose gay marriage. But I am off topic. This incident in Britain though really brought this into focus for me. How far America has slipped. We’re in a dark place. It affects even how I see things. Paranoia. I may as well have a Hitler t-shirt on if I disagree with the New York Times about one damn thing, or believe Jesus rose from the cross.

Back on topic, again, I think Leave still has a chance. I hope they do.


This must be fascinating to Gerry Adams et al. - the spectacle of the British fighting for independence! At least now they know what it feels like to be stuck in something they want out of. :):smiley: Angelcynn æfre.


Some commentary from an American magazine:


**The Assassination of British MP Jo Cox Has Intensified Britain’s Political Crisis

In the UK, Thomas Mair has been formally charged with the shooting and stabbing murder of British MP Jo Cox, and the suspect gave his name as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain,” while appearing at the Westminster magistrates court on Saturday, the Guardian reports. “Bearing in mind the name he has just given, he ought to be seen by a psychiatrist,” the magistrate responded. Whatever Mair’s ailments or motivations, the killing of Cox, a well-respected activist and politician who was seen as a rising star of the opposition Labour Party, one week before the Brexit vote, has both exposed and exacerbated a deep political crisis in the country.**

As the New York Times reported Friday night, the 52-year-old Mair is being investigated for ties to right-wing extremism, as well as a history of mental illness, and authorities reportedly believe the part-time gardener had targeted 41-year-old Cox for political reasons. They continue to investigate witness accounts that the suspect had shouted “Britain first” during the attack, a slogan which is also the name of a far-right political group in the UK that opposes both immigration and the country’s membership in the European Union, though the that group has denied any link between it and the attack.

Following Cox’s murder on Thursday, the campaigning for and against Britain’s EU membership, with a referendum vote on the so-called Brexit scheduled for next Thursday, remains officially suspended, though it appears that campaigning will resume sometime over the weekend. Cox was ardently pro-immigration and an active campaigner for the UK to remain in the EU, and her assassination has prompted calls for more civility from across the political spectrum in the country

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mair had a history of purchasing material, including a neo-Nazi book, from a white supremacist organization in the U.S., and he also subscribed to a South African pro-apartheid magazine in the 1980s.

It’s still not clear how Cox’s death will influence public opinion and next week’s voting on the possible Brexit, but her brutal murder has shocked the country and highlighted how divisive the debate over EU membership, and relatedly, immigration, has become in the country. The Spectator’s Alex Massie, in his response to the attack, confessed that he “cannot recall ever feeling worse about this country and its politics” than he did on Thursday. He also succinctly summarized why many have grown to despair the tone of the Brexit campaign, and in particular decried the long-term tactics of those opposing EU membership on the right:

[INDENT]Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.

We can’t control the weather but, in politics, we can control the climate in which the weather happens. That’s on us, all of us, whatever side of any given argument we happen to be. Today, it feels like we’ve done something terrible to that climate.

Massie adds that “if you don’t feel a little ashamed – if you don’t feel sick, right now, wherever you are reading this – then something’s gone wrong with you somewhere.”

**As an example of how twisted the case to Leave has become, the Times notes that:

The official and unofficial Leave campaigns have suggested that Turkey and its 77 million Muslims are soon to join the European Union, which is untrue, and that despite Britain’s restrictions on free travel for European citizens, membership in the European Union has made Britain more vulnerable to waves of refugees and terrorism

While the claims may be unsubstantiated, pollsters suggest that the focus on Turkey and on regaining “control” over immigration was behind the movement toward a British exit, or Brexit, which is now narrowly leading most polls.

But at the New Statesman, Laurie Penny tries to take an aerial view how Cox’s murder, and the reaction to it, is but the latest evidence of a much larger problem facing the Western world:

**This is not simply a question of terrorism, or of mental illness, easy as either of those answers would be. It’s both, and more. It’s hate-groups preying on the broken and hopeless and fearful, and we are letting it happen.

Sometimes people break down. And sometimes societies break down, and if we are using the language of sickness, the sickness is inside us.

Something has gone badly wrong in this country. Something has gone badly wrong in America, and in the rest of Europe. The centre cannot hold; deep cracks of violence and suspicion crawl in from the fringes of public opinion to rend the heart of the political consensus. Ruthless shysters exploit the rage of the most vulnerable, of those cheated and tossed aside by austerity and inequality, and redirect it towards the marginalised, towards outsiders. …

The sickness is already inside us. The craziness is chewing away at the heart of our society, of our politics. It cannot be explained away, and we owe it to ourselves and to the victims not to write it off as affectless terrorism or meaningless madness. It is hate. There is a logic to it. That logic is being exploited by unscrupulous scumbags, to everyone’s shame.**[/INDENT]


For someone who claims to be a cynic, I am woefully naïve. I am wrong - the smear campaign is in high gear.

Then came the columnists, disrespecting the dead by using her as a ventriloquist’s dummy to express their political concerns…[T]he Guardian’s Polly Toynbee said this ‘referendum campaign’ has made the air ‘corrosive’. She doesn’t mean her side in the referendum campaign; she means the other lot, the disgusting lot, the Leave lot. ‘Leave and their media backers’ have created a ‘noxious brew, with dangerous anti-politics and anti-MP stereotypes’, she says. Seeming to suggest that Leave supporters are the political equivalent of insects, she says the leaders of Leave have ‘lifted several stones’ and let out a ‘rude, crude, Nazi-style extremism’. The irony of it: accusing her opponents of being like Nazis while using insect-like terminology to denounce them…. The message is this: if you are anti-EU — or worse, anti-immigration — then you played a part in creating a climate in which an innocent woman could be murdered. This creeping criminalisation of certain ways of thinking, of certain people, is likely to have a chilling effect on honest, democratic debate; indeed it is designed to. The instinct for sanitising debate, and pushing certain ideas, and certain people, back under Toynbee’s stone, has become more pronounced in recent hours… The exploitation of Cox’s killing is terrible for so many reasons. It’s disrespectful. It’s cynical. It’s ghoulish. It seeks to demonise, and silence, views the mainstream media don’t like. It diminishes the killer’s culpability by suggesting the ‘political climate’ pushed him to do it. And it responds to a murderous attack on a politician by proposing the further weakening of politics. Absolutely the worst response to this killing of a democrat would be to have less debate, less anger, less ideological clashing — things that are the lifeblood of the democratic process. To sanitise politics in memory of Cox would be a disservice both to her and to democracy itself, which by its very nature must permit and in fact encourage the expression of all views – even those held by what the media elite views as disgusting people who live under stones.

Read more at: nationalreview.com/corner


I wouldn’t refer to these perspectives as being part of a smear campaign.

What must be recognised and understood, regardless of one’s position on the Brexit question, is that this murder did not take place in some sort of a vacuum completely disconnected with the referendum campaign.

The facts are that a pro-EU, pro-immigration MP has been brutally murdered by a man, who may have a history of mental illness, claiming to be a political activist linked with an anti-immigration, far-right paramilitary and calling for “Britain First,” "Freedom for Britain, “British Independence” and death for “traitors” who think otherwise.

This is a tragedy indelibly connected with the tenor of the referendum campaign and the messages that have been put out - now written in letters of blood.

These are the facts of what has happened.

Since this tragedy has occurred in the midst of a months’ long campaign that has become crystallized around the issue of immigration and a lot of scare stories have flooded the press from pro-Leave newspapers about migrants and the alleged threat they pose to native Britons…why is it political opportunism for some commentators to draw the dots and say that the hostile environment thus fostered has not been civilized or conducive and that it might have inspired or at least contributed to a nutcase committing murder?

This is not to suggest that Brexiters are somehow at fault for this tragedy or point scoring by Remain. Thomas Mair alone is culpable for this evil act.

Rather it is to seriously consider if the focus of the campaign in recent weeks, the way it has been conducted and the passions it has whipped up have been healthy and becoming of us as a nation or not?

Many now think that the answer to this question is an emphatic “no”.


What you are saying is that tenor of the Leave campaign in recent weeks is to be blamed for inciting Thomas Mair to assassinate a Labour MP. It was a vigorous, nasty debate not unlike the Scottish referendum. To somehow insinuate that this debate should not take place or that the 50% of the country leaning to Leave were somehow contributing to a climate of hate or extremist violence is a smear.

We disagree on this - I doubt either of us will change our views.


One important qualifier to consider is that I am not speaking about the 50% of the electorate here who potentially back Leave. Surely, you know this.

I am referring too the leading politicians who have framed the messages fed to the public and press. Like Nigel Farage and his recent poster that has been widely condemned.

I do believe that it need not have been so nasty, febrile, scaremongering and divisive - as do many others in hindsight. The same message could have been delivered in a more solemn, less hateful manner.

As a nation, we have been diminished by this spectacle.


I don’t think Britain as a country is diminished by one political assassination. There is never any excuse for violence; Britain has seen plenty of it from the IRA for example. And I don’t think the exchange of political ideas, no matter how nasty or vulgar, creates a climate for violence. That is the essence of democracy. But I do agree with you that many on both sides of political conflicts are getting too extreme - we are very quick to villainize those with whom we disagree. Destroy them really. Democracy cannot function much longer in this climate, and by that I mean a genuinely free meaningful exchange of ideas. I also worry about how much we have come to hate one another. It doesn’t just affect the unbalanced, it damages our whole society. Again, it comes from both sides.


Maggie said that referenda were “a device of dictators and demagogues” and she was, as usual, quite right.


I am inclined to agree with her. There is a disturbing historical pedigree of nationalist autocrats - in particular - employing plebiscites (usually fixed I have to admit) to bolster the popular basis of their rule in the absence of parliamentary democracy.

I have never been a fan of referenda and the Scottish/Brexit ones have not altered my opinion in that regard. If anything, they have cemented it. The Scottish Independence campaign in 2014 was vile - truly vile. MSPs on the ‘Better Together’ side being heckled and having eggs thrown at them while being branded ‘traitors’ and ‘Red Tories’. Now this Brexit referendum…I won’t even go there, it has turned out infinitely worse.

As far as I am concerned, our system is characterised by a representative democracy where we elect parliamentarian representatives who are accountable to their constituents but make political decisions on our behalf - not direct democracy, Ancient Athenian-style. It is only now I truly understand why Socrates argued that “tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than [direct Athenian] democracy.”

I see a creeping ‘politicization’ of the masses from all of this ‘plebiscitary’ obsession - and yes, it appears almost designed to feed demagoguery and senseless, unthinking populism of the most venal kind.


There’s nothing wrong with the ‘politicization’ of the masses, it’s inchoate politicization that’s the problem - when the political parties had serious numbers of members, meetings, campaigns etc, that was all well and good, real involvement in politics.

What we have now is semi-organized shouting.


I was wondering if those in the UK can tell me how shocking this murder was considered. Honestly, as an American, I am so de-sensitized to violence (even that targeted at our leaders, see Representative Giffords), I doubt it would affect me anymore.

Thank you.

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