Jo Cox was a popular and passionate local MP. Jo’s murder, by a nationalist fanatic, has prompted a hysterical reaction from commentators. The media is awash with paranoid nonsense about a “toxic atmosphere created by the EU Referendum.”
We live near Birstall. My daughter’s school went into lock-down on Thursday when Jo Cox was murdered. There is no ‘heightened tension’, ‘toxic atmosphere’ or anything of the sort.
There is no relationship between the murder of a popular local MP and the EU Referendum – except in the mind of one highly disturbed individual who thinks he’s ‘fighting for a cause’ and a lot of self-styled commentators who live in their own fevered imaginations.
Some people need to get a grip. Quickly.
Firstly, Thomas Mair represents no-one but himself and the cause in his own head. It appears that he associated with far right-wing sects and he made the weapon that killed Jo. His views are not shared by other people locally. Mair was clearly disturbed and intermittently sought treatment for his condition.
Secondly, we do not live in the 1970s when the National Front had a significant following. We do not live in the 1980s when the police sparked riots by systematically targeting young black men encouraged by media campaigns on street crime and ‘black muggers’. I remember the defence of asian families against harassment on council estates in Bradford. I remember the National Front attacking street stall campaigners defending African immigrants against deportation. Racism in society reflected the politics of the time and we live in very different times. Overt racism is now rare and when it is expressed, it does not carry the intimidatory power it once invoked.
Thirdly, despite the vocal discussion on immigration during the EU Referendum, animosity is not being expressed towards European immigrants. It is common to hear people say that there is too much immigration but they “like working with the Polish, they’re alright” or “I would do the same if I was them”. Typical complaints focus on the difficulty in getting a quick doctors appointment or an over-crowded classroom. People see their workplaces, towns and villages change around them and they were never consulted, asked or involved in any way. Change is happening to people, it is not being made by them.
Fourthly, working class communities, like the one in Birstall, feel that no political party, in fact no-one in public life, represents their interests. Jo Cox was a popular MP, but her party has failed to defend or advance working class interests. New jobs that are being created are typically low paid and insecure. The engineering and textile factories, the power stations and the coal mines are being replaced by supermarket distribution centres and packing plants. People want to be listened to, to be taken seriouly. Is it any wonder that most working class people are voting for Brexit?
Lastly, the commentators and what now passes for ‘left wing’ activists have no relationship with the working class. They are shocked that the EU Referendum has ignited interest, discussion and genuine passion. Their detachment from ordinary people means that they misunderstand their motivation. They genuinely fear the people because, up until now, they have been able to ignore them. If you live in a reified world where the only views you hear are within an echo chamber of reenforcing group-think, it is a shock to realise that most people do not think the way you do. Finally, the commentators misanthropic inclinations lead them to thinking the worst of people. Their contemptuous view of working class people leads them to fear. In a lone act of murder, they see mass hatred.
What we are seeing now is not a ‘toxic atmosphere of heightened tension’, we are seeing the fear and loathing of the working class from middle class commentators who know no better.
© Andy Shaw, 18th June 2016