Just moments after our exit from the European Union, one may expect both endless discussion on the capricious nature of the financial markets, and a growing sense of foreboding about where Britain now stands on the international stage.
This piece will not indulge this, but instead cast our minds to the Thursday before last when the public reacted, ashen-faced, to the news that a Member of Parliament was murdered in her very own constituency. It was to be a day of routine for Jo Cox, which punctuated the light-hearted flotilla performance on the Thames. Constituents would be listened to, letters written and future events scribbled in the diary.
These bright years, however, were extinguished in an act of hate, and her future eminence robbed in a disgusting incident of cowardice.
Born and raised in Batley – where she would return to represent – Cox was inevitably marked out as a parliamentarian whose activism and zeal reached far beyond the threshold of her Yorkshire constituency, and into a world plagued by conflict and famine. As founder and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Friends of Syria group, she collaborated with colleagues to help refugees – promoting their human rights just as she had previously done for victims in Darfur and Afghanistan.
Enveloping this activity was a life of both contrast and continuity, as Cox always had one foot placed firmly in her working class home, and another in more gilded surroundings. Whilst at Cambridge University, she spent her holidays working in a factory; whilst at the Palace of Westminster, Cox declared in her maiden speech, “I am Batley and Spen born and bred, and I could not be prouder of that…I look forward to representing the great people of Batley and Spen here over the next five years”.
These bright years, however, were extinguished in an act of hate, and her future eminence robbed in a disgusting incident of cowardice. It was a crime committed not just against her, but against a now-widowed husband and two motherless children. For Alex Massie, an expression of sadness “doesn’t begin to cover it. This is worse, much worse, than just sad. This is a day of infamy, a day in which we should all feel angry and ashamed”.
Against a backdrop of mourning and referendum discussion, we are left to reflect on two key issues: the innate fragility of our democracy, and the lack of respect our representatives garner. In the case of the latter, memories of expenses scandals have thus far precluded any sympathy for those who carry the burdens of public service, with Ipsos MORI reporting that just 16 per cent of the British public trusted politicians to tell the truth.
This is still a toxic political climate. You would forgive Cox’s parliamentary colleagues for believing the Sword of Damocles was hanging above their heads – they need not shy away from rebutting negative perceptions during this tragedy, as many have lived unstable existences as sacrifice for the ability to do right by their constituents and make the world a better place.
From Birstall to Orlando, crashing waves of hate and prejudice have taken life upon life.
The enduring memory of Jo Cox must come from her husband Brendan, who issued a rallying statement “that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous”.
For many Britons, an enduring sense of shock may prevent the immediate effect of action – for what would have never conceivably occurred, has occurred, and the ability to exercise our freedom of expression has never felt more vulnerable. Brendan Cox’s words recognize that hate is universally threatening, and therefore unifying between ourselves and other nations.
From Birstall to Orlando, crashing waves of hate and prejudice have taken life upon life. Now is the time for action.