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Brutal murder of Jo Cox should lead us to reflect on politics and public life

The brutal murder of Jo Cox was a truly appalling act, writes Councillor David Ellesmere.

It’s hard to imagine what pain her family must be going through to have her snatched away from them so cruelly and without warning.

As a Member of Parliament, her murder was an attack on our democracy and struck at the heart of the British way of life.

It is entirely right that the Referendum campaigns were suspended. I hope everyone in Britain took this time to reflect on the state of politics in our country because I have been increasingly concerned about the direction we are heading in.

There is currently an absolutely corrosive and cynical distrust in politicians and politics. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard: “You’re all the same” and “You’re only in it for yourselves” on the doorstep.

Politicians are human beings so of course there are going to be some who are arrogant, self-seeking and corrupt. But my experience of politicians at all levels and of all parties in Britain leads me to believe that this number is so small that it’s hard to understand how this perception has become so widespread.

The outpouring of grief and the genuine affection that Jo Cox was held in by ordinary people in her constituency shows that good people can be politicians.

If we write off all our politicians as a class, we put our entire democracy at risk. We open ourselves to the embrace of first demagogue who comes along promising that they are different and peddling simple solutions to complex problems.

The advent of the internet and social media is driving further the polarisation of our politics.

People are prepared to say much more offensive things to others online than they would ever say to their faces.

There is a marked tendency on social media for people to only follow others who share the same point of view. Outrageous views and speech are not challenged but steadily ratcheted up because it seems like everyone else thinks like you.

This has led to language that would once have been shocking becoming ever more the norm. Women, and women politicians in particular, are subjected to absolutely vile misogynistic tirades and threats of death and rape.

There are so many of these threats that they simply cannot all be prosecuted but every one that is not prosecuted leads to the further normalisation of this behaviour, not just online but in the real world too.

Jo Cox had had to call the police about sexually-related threats made to her – from a completely different person – in the months before her death.

These trends have been supercharged by the Referendum campaign.

With the stakes so high the rhetoric has been wound up and up, just as it was in the Scottish Referendum.

Someone I work with told me they had been accused of “treason” because they supported staying in the EU.

I have been dismayed by the way the Referendum has been conducted: lies peddled as the truth; doubt as certainty; the motives of those on the opposing side impugned; anyone with in-depth knowledge of a subject automatically distrusted.

This is not the Britain we love: warm hearted, fair-minded and tolerant with a self-deprecating sense of humour and a healthy lack of deference to those in authority.

That Britain is in danger.

On Thursday we will all have our say in the Referendum. Whatever the result, we must accept it and work towards rebuilding trust in politics.

Otherwise there will be more tragedies like Jo Cox and we will lose the Britain we love forever.

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