Jo Cox murder: A recent tone of political debate has been hysterical and angry

The murder of Labour MP Jo Cox is a huge tragedy. We still very little about motives of murder suspect Thomas Mair. Do you think her death may have any impact on British politics and society, and what kind of impact? Read few comments. (I have asked this question before Mair said when asked his name at court: My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.)

Charlie Beckett, Professor, Polis Director, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

These extreme events are a good short-term reminder that febrile politics is not just all talk. Whatever the real reasons for the attack it has made people pause and consider the price of democracy and the risk that politicians and other public figures face. I doubt it will have a long-term impact. In fact it would be a shame if it made MPs more security conscious. Of course, some people have been too quick to draw political conclusions, especially on social media. But I think it is healthy that journalists and politicians have been shocked and thought for a moment, at least, about the possible consequences of extreme political rhetoric. Angry speech can make for a dangerous atmosphere and it can even trigger unstable and mentally ill people to act in violent ways. Generally, the UK has relatively lively but not violent political speech but recently the tone has been hysterical and angry. It would be a good thing if this ghastly action makes people chose their words more carefully.

Martin Farr, Senior Lecturer in Contemporary British History, School of Historical Studies, University of Newcastle

The impact of Jo Cox ‘s murder is likely to be more practical than profound. Security for MPs has been an issue for some time, and will now have to be addressed, commensurate with them being accessible to their electors. The physical threat they face is amplified by the digital threats they receive daily on social media, and the connection between the two touches on the more profound issues of the nature of the relationship between electors and elected. That Jo Cox was a young politician with no enemies has made public attitudes to politicians much more stark, as has the bitter and personal character of the Referendum campaign, and a general tenor to public debate engendered, in particular, but the impact of the Iraq War and the Expenses Scandal. There have been calls that her murder should lead to a more constructive, less aggressive tone to political debate, but exactly the same thing was said after the death of John Smith in 1994 (and in the US after the attack on Gabrielle Giffords) and normal service was resumed shortly afterwards, as it will be again now. Cox will be remembered forever, and the safety of MPs will be a higher priority, but the trends encouraged by social media will continue unabated.

The impact on the referendum is actually more interesting, but less knowable. She was an active Remainer, and this may serve that side of the campaign. For such a frenzied campaign to be completely suspended for 48 hours a few days before the vote is extraordinary.

Steve Hewitt, Senior Lecturer in American and Canadian Studies, University of Birmingham

I’m unsure of the impact. In the short term there will be talk of a new spirit of politics and, certainly, tighter security for MPs. There certainly is a high level of shock, especially over the brutality of the crime. However, in the longer term I doubt there will much of an impact of yesterday’s horrible attack. MPs have been murdered and attacked before although she is the first female MP to be killed. And it undoubtedly won’t be long before there will be a return to “politics as usual” particularly in the aftermath of next week’s important referendum. The links between the attacker and the far right will certainly be of immediate interest to the police. Far-right extremism is one of the areas UK police and security concentrate on but it has received considerably less attention from the media and politicians than Islamist violence. Perhaps it will spark more discussion about the far-right threat and also that people who carry out violence come in many different versions.

Simon UsherwoodAssociate Dean, Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics, University of Surrey

Jo Cox’s murder has a been a terrible shock to British politics. Something like this has never really been seen before, and the strength of reaction is remarkable, including the suspension of campaigning on the EU referendum. Her death reminds us of the hard work that MPs do, often with no credit, for those around them, and of the way that they spend much of their working lives among the rest of us, not marked out for special attention or protection. Hopefully, her death will bring back some acknowledgement of the work that politicians do and the commitment they make to their work. However, until we know any more about the circumstances surrounding this terrible event, it is hard to see what impact it might have on either politics or society.

Peter Snowdon, Contemporary Historian and Journalist, Co-Author of Cameron at 10: The Inside Story 2010-2015

This is the first time a female British MP has been murdered. It is a sad and tragic moment in the history of British parliamentary democracy. It is difficult to know how it will affect political debate, which has become increasingly bad tempered and embittered in recent times. It might give politicians and the public an opportunity to reflect on the nature of our political life – in which the accessibility and openness of constituency MPs has been such an intrinsic part.




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