British MP Jo Cox Assassinated

Caitlin McLaren - 3T Chemical
Posted on: June 18, 2016

Britain was stunned on Thursday when Member of Parliament Helen “Jo” Cox was shot and stabbed in broad daylight while meeting with constituents. She left behind her husband Brendan and two small children, Cuillin and Lejla. Cox was a member of the Labour party, and an outspoken advocate for refugees, migrants, and minorities. She also supported Britain’s remaining in the European Union in the referendum to take place on the 23rd.

The murderer was 52-year old Thomas Mair, who allegedly shouted “Britain first!” during the attack.  Reportedly, his gun was either homemade or an antique, as there are many legal restrictions on obtaining a gun in the UK. Mair also stabbed a 77-year old bystander who attempted to intervene before leaving the scene, but was soon captured by police. Cox died from her injuries within an hour. The older man was hospitalized with serious injuries, but is expected to survive.

While the matter is still under investigation, it is very likely that Mair was a right-wing radical. Mrs. Cox’s political views made her unpopular with conservatives, who disagreed with her particularly on immigration policies. Furthermore, “Britain First” is the name of a right-wing, anti-Islamic group, although they declare themselves “shocked” and profess that the killer has no connection to them. There are many rumours about Mair’s possible connections to that and other radical right-wing groups, although it is unclear which of them if any have a basis in fact. Mair did have a history of mental health issues, and his family argues that this was the reason for his actions. Mair, for his part, when appearing in court on Saturday morning, would say nothing except “Death to traitors freedom for Britain”, which suggests that he is indeed a political radical.

This is the first murder of a British Member of Parliament since 1990, and comes just days before the “Brexit” referendum, which will take place on June 23rd. On that day, Britons will vote on whether to remain a member of the European Union or to leave: if a straight majority votes to leave, leave they will; and if the majority votes to stay, Britain will remain a member of the European Union, but with special status. At the beginning of the year, British Prime Minister David Cameron negotiated a deal with EU leaders that would exempt Britain from certain EU requirements and keep Britain more independent, as opposed to the “ever closer union” outlined by the treaties forming the European Union. Cox was in favour of the “Remain” side.

Britain is very split on the issue, which is complex and has economical and ideological components. However, the issues that are the most controversial are immigration regulations and trade, and the split has become largely between the right and left. Conservative-leaning Britons are worried about excessive immigration leading to a loss of British identity and economic trouble, while liberals are concerned for the plight of asylum-seekers and are not convinced by the nationalist arguments. While the trade situation is more tangled, Cameron’s deal does limit the amount of money foreign workers with EU citizenship could send to their families in Europe, thus tying the issues together. The issue of immigration has been getting a great deal of attention due to the highly visible refugee crisis and the backlash from far-right groups, who fear that Islamic radicalism might be introduced or spread by the largely Muslim refugees that, according to European Union policies, Britain should harbour. Ironic, then, that the first act of politically-motivated violence related to the issue was performed by a radical supporter of British nationalism.

Jo Cox was known as a strong voice for refugees and minorities, and ever since her death there has been a strong outpouring of grief not only in Britain but from around the world. Syrian groups and advocates for refugees sent their condolences, as well as foreign political leaders. Members of all the British political parties alike paid their respects, and Queen Elizabeth herself will send private condolences to her family.

Cox was well-liked by both her constituents and her colleagues, and will be remembered as a force promoting love, tolerance, and respect. As her widower puts it: “She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.” In these troubled political times, let us all hope that the world will respect Jo Cox’s wishes.