Saturday, June 18, 2016

How to respond, and how not to respond, to Thursday's murder.

The murder of Jo Cox MP on Thursday shocked the nation and, indeed, people around the world.

The vast majority of people whether right or left, leave or remain, were horrified that a woman could be shot and stabbed to death while doing her job, leaving two children aged three and five without their mother.

I believe that the two sides in the referendum campaign were right yo suspend campaigning for a few days in the immediate aftermath of Jo Cox's death, both as a mark of respect and because such campaigning was likely to be seen through the prism of what happened.

I also think that the Conservatives, and the other main parties which have followed suit, were right not to contest the by-election. Again, both as a mark of respect and to make the point that the political composition of parliament should not be changed through murder. I have heard people describe this as "cheating the voters;" deals not to put up candidates at a normal election can fairly be described in that way, but this by election would never have happened in the first place without a murder that I am certain the vast majority of voters in Batley and Spen would have preferred not to have happened, so in this case the only cheating is by the murderer who cheated them out of the services of the MP they elected.

And the murderer is the only person to blame for the death of Jo Cox. We can learn lessons from what has happened, but nobody should try to score points from it.

I have seen no sign whatsoever that either the official Leave campaign or the official Remain campaign has tried to used the assassination of Jo Cox to their advantage. Nor have the great majority of either side. But a section of the press - not by any means a majority - has responded in unfortunate ways.

We can and should learn a general lesson from these tragic events that better security should be provided for MPs as they carry out an important part of their job, meeting and listening to their constituents.

W can also learn the general lesson - preferably without pointing too many fingers at any particularl part of the political spectrum - that criticising the politics of people you disagree with, even doing so robustly, is OK but, without wanting to restrict anyone's right to free speech, it is far healthier if criticism is delivered within a position of respect for the other people involved. As I wrote in response to Jennifer Williams' article yesterday, none of us have a monopoly on wisdom or virtue.

And one thing the tragic event does not tell us is how to vote. We should base our decision on how to vote purely on what is best for Britain - and the actions of one depraved murderer do not change what is right for Britain.


POSTSCRIPT

I see that a number of papers on Sunday 19th reprinted a piece Jo Cox had written on Politics Home arguing the case to Remain, and BSiE and the Prime Minister were among those who linked to that article on social media.

They were accused in some quarters of exploiting the murder for political gain.

I understand that view but do not share it.

If the people who were republishing and sharing what the murdered MP had herself written thought her words were worth reading - and I presume they would not have done it if they didn't - they were sharing the words that the murderer wanted to silence. I think that is only balancing the score.

We should have the opportunity to read those words, which you can do here, and then act on them if, and only if, we find them convincing.

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