The late Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen was a person who believed in love – the Big one, not just loving your friends and family but everyone she ever came into contact with and many others that she simply read about and wanted to reach out to. Jo Cox believed in fighting for a better world and a more just society. As human beings go, she was clearly, one of the very best but unfortunately, Jo is no longer with us. Six months ago, one of her constituents, Thomas Mair took it upon himself to kill the MP and sadly, succeeded. Whatever prompted the killer to do such a shocking thing will probably never be known but it has been suggested that Mair was motivated by racial hatred. An overly simple albeit most possibly, correct assumption by the UK media. However, as a former practitioner and outreach worker myself, I am only too aware of the difficulties faced by those who work in our communities be they police officers, social workers or, as in this case, a democratically elected representative of the people going about their business. As professionals, we Risk-assess, adopt Lone-Working policies and generally, do everything we possibly can to keep ourselves safe. However, mistakes are made and the consequences are often tragically sad.
Sixty miles away from the former mill town of Birstall in the semi-rural idyll often cited as being one of most desirable places in the UK to live, a local Tory Councillor was so unmoved by the tragic events of June 16th that in response to a social media fundraising campaign in memory of the MP commented “I’ve just donated the steam of my piss!” The same Councillor, Dominic Peacock, later posted “I am sick and tired of this woman’s [Jo Cox] death being used against the Brexit cause.” [it happened a week before the EU referendum] The local Conservative Party [Beverley and Holderness branch] obviously took issue with their member and expelled him from the party for two years. This period was arrived at, according to the association’s chairman Christopher Coulter, to allow Mr Peacock back into the party in time for him to seek re-election in 2019. So that’s him sorted then except that, Councillor Peacock remains a member of both, East Riding Council and Beverley Town Council. Apparently, none of the authorities mentioned can legally remove Cllr Peacock from any of his elected roles however, I suspect that the Conservative Party are within their rights to permanently expel him from the party. The latest news suggests that they have extended his ban to four years.
I wonder what it was that motivated Cllr Peacock to publish his comments on Facebook? It’s bad enough to know that he holds such evil contempt f0r others but to let it be known in such a way is inexplicable. Peacock claims to regret it now but surely, it was a similar impulse to that which prompted Thomas Mair’s actions back in June? Some people carry hatred around with them just as you or I might never leave the house without ensuring we have a few quid in our pocket should we need it. Of course, in the wider sense, hatred is not only endemic within our communities but also uniquely human. Some might argue that we only attack when we feel threatened but that’s not strictly true is it? Individuals, Communities and Countries have waged war against each other for centuries simply because they lacked the ability to resolve their differences peacefully. Perhaps Thomas Mair lacked the necessary skills to explain why he found the policies of his local MP so objectionable but I suspect that Cllr Peacock is rather more sagacious than the former gardener. And how much better would it have been had Mair’s alleged, extreme views been made public and acted upon before that fateful day in June? Clearly there are individuals living among us who seek to harm others for no other reason than that they hold views which don’t tally with their own. Perhaps in our efforts to remain tolerant we are allowing this kind of hatred to fester and grow?
It was reported that following the death of Jo Cox, there were over 50 thousand tweets congratulating her killer, many of them calling him a hero. However, we should not assume that Mair acted on behalf of any political association, fringe or otherwise. He was, IMHO, someone who had become so absorbed in Far-Right, Nazi-Style propaganda that it was only a matter of time before he did something outrageous. Killing Jo Cox was a political action but of the most personal kind. Mair planned to kill his MP because he, Thomas Mair, wanted her dead. Subsequently, the by-election to appoint Jo Cox’s successor was won by the former actress, Tracy Brabin standing as the Labour candidate with very much the same mandate as her predecessor. Considering that none of the other four main political parties took any part in the election, it wasn’t a surprising result. What did surprise me though, was the low turn-out [25%] and the number of extremist groups masquerading as political organs who did take part in the process. Where were the local people who Jo Cox had worked so hard for during her short tenure as their MP? We can only hope that they will continue to build upon the foundations that Jo Cox managed to cement in place before she had to leave them. However, in other communities across Britain the poison continues to spread. The MP Anna Soubry, member for Broxtree in Nottinghamshire was recently targeted on social media with hate messages, the most heinous calling for someone to “Jo Cox her”. The latest news is that a 25 year old man has been arrested in connection with this comment but as yet, no further action has been taken.
Footnote: I have not used any pictures of any individuals mentioned, mainly out of respect but in Dominic Peacock’s case because I cannot bare to look at his ugly mug.
Update: We are almost two weeks into January 2017 and Peacock has still not resigned!