The Murder of Jo Cox and the disgraceful culpability of David Cameron and the gutter press in creating an enabling political context.

18 Jun

Let’s be clear: the murderer of Jo Cox was the man who shot and stabbed her. But the murder occurred in a context in which verbal and written incivility among certain politicians, parties and media outlets has become main-streamed. British Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly accused the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, of being a “terrorist symapthiser”. On one memorable occasion in the House of Commons, Cameron was given repeated opportunities to apologise for his comments. He refused – because he is a Prime Minister who regards his job as the equivalent of a sixth form debate – a debate with no consequences. Cameron has form on this: he reveled in accusing Labour’s London mayoral candidate of sharing a platform with an Islamic State supporter, and spent one Prime Minister’s Questions concentrating on the alleged anti-Semitism of the Labour Party.

These were thoroughly disgraceful displays. And entirely cynical. Cameron does not truly believe that Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser. Indeed, if he did, he would be duty bound to inform the police. Instead, for Cameron it was all part of the theatre of politics – an opportunity to score a few cheap points. Over decades, British politicians – from all of the main parties – have engaged in personal attacks – denigrating the character of individuals whose politics they disagree with. Establishment figures regularly laugh off these debates by describing them as ‘the rough and tumble of politics’. They are no such thing. Attacking the character of people you disagree with is … the phrase ‘character assassination’ comes to mind.

The gutter press is front and centre of the coarsening of British political debate. Britain’s gutter press is licenced to occupy the gutter – a position confirmed by the shelving of the Leveson Report that looked at how Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper had bugged the phone of the mother of a murdered child. For many years, the British press has been lampooning politicians it does not like – figures on the political left (including Jeremy Corbyn, Gerry Adams, Ken Livingstone) have been the most regular targets. These media character assassination are often deeply gendered: Clare Short, Margaret Beckett, Nicola Sturgeon, Kate Hoey, Cherie Blair and many others have suffered attacks that simply would not be launched on men.

While the political Establishment and gutter press are engaged in the theatrical mourning of Jo Cox, they are absolving themselves of the blame of creating the context in which citizens think it is OK to murder, intimidate and abuse politicians. It is doubtless comforting (and expedient) for many politicians and journalists to see this murder as a one-off – the act of a ‘mad’ ‘loner’. But all violence occurs in a political context. This context has been created by the gutter press and politicians like David Cameron.

Many politicians are not particularly likeable. Many hold views that are abhorrent. But they deserve the same workplace protections as everyone else. Moreover, we – as citizens – deserve political debates that are honest and serious. I have been struck by the number of times that Jeremy Corbyn has called for debates to be ‘civil’, ‘dignified’ and ‘comradely’. It is a pity that many of his fellow politicians aren’t big enough to take a leaf out of that book.

David Cameron and his ilk do not bear direct responsibility for this murder, but the chain of implication includes a political context that Cameron encourages. Shame.

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2 Responses to “The Murder of Jo Cox and the disgraceful culpability of David Cameron and the gutter press in creating an enabling political context.”

  1. Mariano Aguirre 18/06/2016 at 8:42 pm #

    very good comment. you are absolutely right. Mariano Aguirre (Oslo)

  2. alanbullion 18/06/2016 at 10:10 pm #

    Roger – leave it alone. Its the Brexit people who have stoked this up. AB ________________________________

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