One week before voting for the EU Referendum took place, a UK MP was brutally murdered, and to judge by the almost total absence of any mention of this since the day of the vote, people seem to have forgotten about it.
Perhaps a timely reminder is due.
Jo Cox was the Labour MP for Batley and Spen in Yorkshire. Whilst on her way to a constituency meeting, she was shot and stabbed by Thomas Mair, who apparently had mental health issues and links to several far Right organisations. By all accounts, she was a dutiful MP, much admired and respected by her constituents.
In the bewilderment, grief and dismay that followed, campaigning was temporarily suspended. However, the mere mention of her name seemed to provoke the Leave campaign into accusations of Remain capitalising on her murder. Evidence of Mair’s apparent connection to the far Right was derided, and his mental state alone blamed for his actions.
It’s really not appropriate to identify and analyse why Mair did what he did. He could have been a mentally unstable “lone wolf” as many Remainers seemed to think, or he could have carried out the attack knowing full well what he was doing, and with the collusion of others. We simply don’t know enough to say, as the due process of the Law has not yet proceeded far enough.
However, what we do know is that there has been a sharp rise in the UK figures for racially motivated hate crime since the Referendum; 42% up, in fact, with incidences of arson attacks and verbal and physical abuse.
By pandering to the xenophobic inclinations of a certain section of the UK electorate, the Leave camp legitimised the feelings of those for whom race and nationality were an issue. The UKIP “Breaking Point” poster that was unveiled on the very same day that Jo Cox was murdered – and then hastily withdrawn – was a prime example of how Leave attempted to appeal to the basest impulses of xenophobes, bigots and racists. Indeed, a very common aphorism to read at the time was a variation on the following: “Not all Brexiteers are racists, but all racists are Brexiteers.” Yes, it may be glib and trite, but it is essentially accurate. How, logically, can it not be?
After decades of effort expended by communities, charities and politicians fighting racist political parties and organisations, the Leave campaign, with the assistance of the right wing press, stoked up pressure that allowed far Right inclined voters to vent their feelings via the ballot box. Then, the very next day after the vote, some of these ignorant and misguided people thought they had carte blanche to start harassing and persecuting immigrants.
And this abuse is still ongoing…
All this showed a total lack of vision – a hallmark of the Leave campaign – and should have been anticipated.
However, not only did Leave allow elements of xenophobia to be integrated into their campaign, permit their cause to be boosted by it, and then not foresee its effects, they went on to state that the rise in racist attacks and abuse was nothing to do with them.
Daniel Hannan MEP, of the Leave campaign:
“This apparent increase in racist attacks in the UK has nothing to do with our campaign. You will always get people who do these sorts of things.”
But back to Jo Cox.
Until Mair is tried, it is futile to try and figure out the motives for his actions which resulted in her death, and whether the sole responsibility for them was his. However, in the case of post-Referendum attacks on immigrants, responsibility is far easier to place.
By means of its anti-immigration tactics, Leave encouraged feelings of xenophobia and then capitalised on them. However, when the hate crimes started the very day after the vote, any connection with the Leave campaign’s activities was denied.
Not just short on ideas and foresight, but totally lacking any sense of responsibility for the damage they have caused to race relations in UK society, the Leave campaign has left us with a highly toxic legacy that will contaminate our country for many years to come.
By Steve Cobham, SY2E Editorial Staff