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The murder of Jo Cox MP, 41, has prompted a seething fury across Britain that will take a long time, perhaps many years, to fully dissipate. The mother of two young children, Ms Cox was carrying out her democratic business at a local surgery in her constituency of Birstall, Yorkshire, when a man by the name of Thomas ‘Tommy’ Mair shot her twice with a home-made gun, later kicking her as she lay dying and remarking (according to eyewitnesses) either ‘Britain First’ or ‘Put Britain first’.
In the Guardian newspaper today there are reports that Mr Mair maintained links with the Neo-Nazi National Alliance party in the United States, an organisation from which he purchased a substantial amount of material online. This material, according to the SPLC, included the squalid and nasty volume ‘The Turner Diaries’ by Dr William Pierce, a Jurassic anti-Semite and favoured author of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. And when he appeared in court for a preliminary hearing on Saturday, Mr Mair seemed to confirm his radicalism by stating his name as ‘Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. All things considered, it appears clear enough what motivated the killer to carry out his deed; fascism, unpolished and uncomplicated; a grudge against democracy.
Since the murder was confirmed by local police, media outlets across Europe have been quick to seize upon the murder for explicitly political gain. It would be easy and conventional to beat them up for this, but it would also be dishonest. I made political capital out of Orlando on the day that it happened, as did many of the people currently complaining. We can at least be consistent. Like Orlando, this is an act of political violence with direct political implications. It must therefore be discussed in a political context.
What are those implications? Who deserves blame? Well, according to the continental media, the murder may have been connected to Ms Cox’s outspoken support for the ‘remain’ side of the upcoming EU referendum. This is based on the – not unreasonable – assumption that Mr Mair, given his rumoured nationalism, was/is firmly in the ‘leave’ camp. That, however, is where the evidence dries up. This is just an assumption. It may be an accurate one, but at the moment we simply don’t know enough to say one way or the other.
Others, most notably Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, have blamed a climate of anti-politics stretching back to the ‘expenses’ scandal of 2009. In case you’re unfamiliar with that scandal, it was centred on revelations that numerous MPs had claimed public money for highly dubious reasons, such as the construction of a moat around a personal residence, or for expensive holidays or alcoholic drinks. Since that crisis, public opinion of politicians in Britain has been gutterishly low. In Freedland’s opinion, this climate has swollen out of all logical proportions.
“For weeks, months and years,” he wrote, “‘politician’ has been a word more spat out than said. MPs have been depicted as a form of pond life, routinely placed on the lowest rung of the ladder of esteem, trusted less than estate agents and journalists, the butt of every panel show gag, casually assumed to be venal, mendacious, vain, stupid or malevolent… These complaints are repeated so often, we barely notice them. They’re like moans about the weather, presumed to warrant no disagreement….We don’t yet know what was in the mind of the man who killed Jo Cox. But even if we cannot locate a specific cause in the nation’s political debate and claim this murder as its direct effect, we can say this: that if you inject enough poison into the political bloodstream, eventually somebody will get sick.”
Finally, Britain First, the facebook-based activist group/political party has been specifically blamed by many, especially in light of the comment allegedly made by the killer cited above. Ms Cox was known for her impassioned activism on behalf of the children of Syrian refugees. Britain First is a very straightforward anti-Islam collective. It isn’t outlandish to propose that Mair agreed with the latter’s agenda. A photograph allegedly depicting Mair holding a Britain First banner is also circulating on social media, although its authenticity has yet to be confirmed at the time of writing.
I personally think the truth is a mixture of the first two (although it wouldn’t surprise me if the last was also a factor). The EU debate has taken on a decidedly histrionic character, with words like ‘fascist’ and ‘traitor’ thrown about with little serious regard for their meaning. The anti-political sentiment of which Freedland speaks is very real. People up and down this country feel that they have been duped, lied to, taken for fools. The EU referendum is where it all comes out; an opportunity, as some may see it, for vengeance against the political class.
But we haven’t been lied to nearly as often as we think. The problems our country faces are the result of policies enacted openly, with advance warning and after copious explanation. Mass immigration was never a policy cooked up in a dark, smoke-filled room. It has been debated and discussed for decades. Even if it was difficult to take advantage of, there has always been a semblance of choice available to the general public. That popular discontent has yet to be converted into a change in policy is the fault of the people as well as the establishment.
So why is dissent on the issue of immigration always ineffective? Why is always left to fester underground, setting the scene for hatred and violence?The answer, I believe, lies in how anti-immigration dissent is expressed and who expresses it.
Anti-immigration advocates, in the popular imagination and sometimes in reality, are uncouth, scruffy, loud and aggressive. They wear camouflage jackets and baseball caps, have tattoos and speak with a heavy, unattractive regional stamp. Even if you agree with them, you might be hesitant to say so for fear of being grouped in with them. All the pretty, successful and clever people are left-wing. The right is for misfits and dullards, for the underclass. This snobbish sentiment has forced many middle class voters into a reflexive, insincere leftism; one not based in reason, but in status-anxiety and snobbishness.
Jo Cox, whether one agreed with her opinions or not, was a beautiful and civilised human being. Young, bright, warm and tolerant, she was everything you would look for in a friend and hope for in a colleague. The urge to side with her against the nasty, bellicose and ill-mannered ‘leave’ campaign must now be overwhelming.
I have always tried to treat the subjects I discuss on this blog with restraint and moderation. I try not to hurl insults or baseless accusations. If I advance a theory about something, I make sure to back it up with explanation and examples. Most importantly, I try to put forward my arguments using measured and clean language. Without wanting to sound immodest, that should be the standard approach to all political discourse. It is on the left. It should be on the right as well.
The murder of Jo Cox may is no small event. It may well go on to change the course of history, keeping Britain in the European Union and thereby saving the EU from implosion. If so, the failure of the British commentariat, not just the British establishment, to make the case against unlimited immigration will be to blame. We had a good case to argue, but we failed to make it in a sufficiently civilised and intelligent way. Had we done so, the likes of Tommy Mair would scarcely have been able to appreciate our arguments, while the likes of Jo Cox may have found reason to agree with us. We repelled the good and the clever, whilst attracting the dull and the reprehensible. If Britain votes to remain, if only in order to stand with Jo Cox and against Tommy Mair, I fully understand why.
The case against mass immigration from the Muslim world is a liberal argument, not a conservative one. The Syrian refugees Ms Cox championed have views so conservative they make Nigel Farage look like a bearded hippie. We must resist the influx of Muslims in order to preserve our freedoms, our democracy and our modern way of life. If we put our case like that all the time, we might be surprised by how many allies we actually have.