Friday, June 17, 2016

Jo Cox, Rising star in UK Parliament, Shot Dead in Northern England


World | Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:30am EDT
Related: World

British lawmaker shot dead, EU referendum campaigns suspended

BIRSTALL, England |

A British member of parliament was shot dead in the street on Thursday, causing deep shock across Britain and the suspension of campaigning for next week's referendum on the country's EU membership.

Jo Cox, 41, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party and a vocal advocate for Britain remaining in the European Union, was attacked while preparing to meet constituents in Birstall near Leeds in northern England.

Media reports said she had been shot and stabbed. West Yorkshire regional police said a 52-year-old man was arrested by officers nearby and weapons including a firearm recovered. "We are not in a position to discuss any motive at this time," said Temporary Chief Constable Dee Collins.

One witness said a man pulled an old or makeshift gun from a bag and fired twice. "I saw a lady on the floor like on the beach with her arms straight and her knees up and blood all over the face," Hichem Ben-Abdallah told reporters. "She wasn't making any noise, but clearly she was in agony."

The lawmaker's husband Brendan said: "She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now: one, that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her."

The rival referendum campaign groups said they were suspending activities for the day, with the Remain camp saying its activities would also be suspended on Friday. Prime Minister David Cameron said he would pull out of a planned rally in Gibraltar, the British territory on the southern coast of Spain.

Cameron said the killing of the mother-of-two, who had worked on U.S. President Barack Obama's 2008 election campaign, was a tragedy.

"We have lost a great star," the Conservative prime minister said. "She was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion, with a big heart. It is dreadful, dreadful news."

It was not immediately clear what the impact would be on the June 23 referendum, which has polarized the nation into pro- and anti-EU camps. But some analysts speculated it could boost the pro-EU "Remain" campaign, which in recent days has fallen behind the "Leave" camp in opinion polls.

Britain's sterling currency rose against the dollar after news of the attack, adding around two cents.
Finance minister George Osborne and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney scrapped major speeches planned for Thursday evening and the International Monetary Fund said it had delayed the publication of a report on the British economy.


Media reports, citing witnesses, said the attacker had shouted out "Britain first", which is the name of a right-wing nationalist group that describes itself on its website as "a patriotic political party and street defence organisation".

But the deputy leader of the group, Jayda Fransen, completely distanced it from the attack, which she described as "absolutely disgusting".

West Yorkshire's elected Police and Crime Commissioner said "our information is that this is a localised incident, albeit one that has a much wider impact".

Gun ownership is highly restricted in Britain, and attacks of any nature on public figures are rare. The last British lawmaker to have been killed in an attack was Ian Gow, who died after a bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded under his car at his home in southern England in 1990.

Britain's Union Jack flag was flying at half-mast over the Houses of Parliament in London, while in Birstall hundreds of people attended a vigil at a local church.

Colleagues expressed their shock and disbelief at the death of Cox, a Cambridge University graduate who had spent a decade working for aid agency Oxfam in roles including head of humanitarian campaigning and was known for her work on women's issues.

She won election to parliament for northern England's Batley and Spen district at the 2015 general election, and lived with her husband and children on a traditional Dutch barge moored on the Thames near the Tower of London.

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"We've lost a wonderful woman, we've lost a wonderful member of parliament, but our democracy will go on," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a televised statement. "As we mourn her memory, we'll work in her memory to achieve that better world she spent her life trying to achieve."

Labour lawmaker Sarah Champion said: "She's a tiny woman, five feet nothing and a lion as well - she fights so hard for the things she believes in. I cannot believe anyone would do this to her."

Police said a 77-year-old man was also assaulted in the incident and suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

BBC TV and other media showed a picture of the alleged suspect, a balding white man, being apprehended by police. Temporary Chief Constable Collins said a "very significant investigation with large numbers of witnesses" was under way.

"We are not looking for anyone else in connection with this incident," she said.

The last attack on a British legislator was in 2010, when Labour member and ex-cabinet minister Stephen Timms was stabbed in the stomach at his office in east London by a 21-year-old student who was angry over his backing for the 2003 Iraq war.

In 2000, a Liberal Democrat local councillor was murdered by a man with a samurai sword at the offices in western England of lawmaker Nigel Jones, who was also seriously hurt in the attack.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, Michael Holden, Estelle Shirbon, David Milliken and William Schomberg; Writing by Michael Holden; Editing by Pravin Char)


British lawmaker killed in "charged" atmosphere before vote on EU

By Reuters
By Michael Holden

LONDON, June 17 (Reuters) - In the weeks before lawmaker Jo Cox was killed, there were warnings that passions could spill into violence in the fevered campaign for next week's referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.

Police have declined to comment on the motive for Thursday's murder, but the attack has raised questions about whether those fears have now been realised.

Cox, a supporter of the campaign to stay in the EU, was shot and stabbed by a man who witnesses said shouted "Britain first" -- a rallying cry for some supporters of the "Leave" campaign but also the name of a right-wing group.

Leading figures from the "Remain" campaign have made no link between Cox's death and the referendum campaign, which has become increasingly angry and bitter in the latter stages.

But on social media some Britons highlighted a warning last month by Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU UKIP party and one of the most prominent figures in the referendum campaign.

"I think it is legitimate to say that if people feel they've lost control completely, and we have lost control of our borders completely as members of the European Union, and if people feel that voting doesn't change anything then violence is the next step," Farage told BBC TV in last month's comments.

He went on to say he found it "difficult to contemplate it happening here but nothing is impossible", and said after the attack that he was horrified and deeply saddened.
One of the most emotive issues during the campaign for the June 23 referendum has been immigration.

Supporters of a British exit, or Brexit, say that uncontrolled immigration from the rest of the EU has put pressure on jobs and services, and that millions of Turks could arrive in Britain if Turkey joins the 28-country bloc.

"Taking place inside the febrile and increasingly-charged atmosphere of the EU referendum debate -- with the swing to anti-immigrant sentiment -- for some that may swing them towards hate, and for a smaller minority perhaps even violence," Nick Ryan, of the anti-racism group Hope Not Hate, told Reuters.

Tempers have also flared over accusations of scaremongering by both sides and allegations by each that the other is distorting the facts, especially on the cost of EU membership to Britain and the likely economic impact of a Brexit.

The "Remain" campaign led by Prime Minister David Cameron says an exit would be a "leap into the dark" for the country and its economy. The "Leave" campaign says a Brexit would liberate Britain to trade more freely with the world.


British media have named the suspected killer arrested by police as 52-year-old Thomas Mair, whose brother said he had a history of mental illness and no strong political views.

But a U.S. civil rights group said a man by the name of Thomas Mair had been associated with a neo-Nazi organisation since 1999, and the cry of "Britain first" heard by witnesses raised the possibility the attack was politically-motivated.

Among those to use the phrase is a small Christian, right-wing nationalist political party called Britain First whose motto is "Taking Our Country Back".

The party, set up in 2011, wants to halt immigration, deport all illegal immigrants and make it an act of treason to transfer any sovereignty to a foreign institution.

But its leader, Paul Golding, has distanced the group from any link to Cox's killing, which he called a "despicable crime", and said it had no connections with Mair.

"What this person said -- was he referring to an organisation, was he referring to a slogan, was he shouting out in the middle of an EU debate 'It's time we put Britain first'?" he said in a video statement on the group's website.

"I've heard this almost every day. It's the name of our party yes ... (but) everyone is saying it's time we put Britain first, it's the type of language that's been utilised during this referendum campaign."

The party has 1.4 million "likes" on Facebook and anti-fascist campaigners say its ranks include former members of the British nationalist Party (BNP), a far-right party that won two seats in elections to the European Parliament in 2009.

But Britain First remains a fringe party, having mustered just 1 percent of first-round votes when Golding stood in an election for London Mayor in May.

Golding turned his back when it was announced that Labour's Muslim candidate, Sadiq Khan, had won the election and although the party rejects accusations it is racist, it says it wants to introduce a comprehensive ban on Islam.

It also recently held its first activist training camp in the mountains of north Wales, with a film on its website showing members wearing military fatigues holding Union flags, boxing and practicing self-defence.

Support for far-right parties in Europe has grown as the continent struggles with an influx of migrants, most notably in Austria where far-right candidate Norbert Hofer almost won a presidential election in May.

But Britain has not seen any notable rise in far-right public backing, and the BNP has faded into obscurity. (Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Timothy Heritage)

LONDON Lawmaker Jo Cox was shot dead in the street in northern England on Thursday, causing shock across Britain and leading to the suspension of campaigning for next week's referendum on the country's EU membership. [nL8N1991FN]

Following is a summary of reaction:
"Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.
"She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now: one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her."
"We have lost a great star. She was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion, with a big heart."
"It is right that we are suspending campaigning activity in this referendum, and everyone's thoughts will be with Jo's family and her constituents at this terrible time."
"We've lost a wonderful woman, we've lost a wonderful member of parliament, but our democracy will go on. Her work will go on. As we mourn her memory, we'll work in her memory to achieve that better world she spent her life trying to achieve."
"Jo died doing her public duty at the heart of our democracy, listening to and representing the people she was elected to serve."
"In the coming days, there will be questions to answer about how and why she died. But for now all our thoughts are with Jo's husband Brendan and their two young children."
"I am horrified by the assassination of British MP Jo Cox, murdered earlier today in her district in Northern England. By all accounts, she was a rising star. It is cruel and terrible that her life was cut short by a violent act of political intolerance.
"It is critical that the United States and Britain, two of the world's oldest and greatest democracies, stand together against hatred and violence. This is how we must honour Jo Cox -- by rejecting bigotry in all its forms, and instead embracing, as she always did, everything that binds us together."
"The incident is terrible, dramatic and our thoughts are with the people affected – the Labour lawmakers, the politicians. I don't want to connect this with the vote on Great Britain staying in the European Union.
"I think the lesson must be that we have to treat each other with respect, even if we have different political views.
"The exaggerations and radicalisation in some of the language do not help to foster an atmosphere of this kind of respect. That is why all of us who value the democratic rules of the game know how important it is to be careful to set limits in choosing our words and in making our arguments, and to treat with respect those who think differently, who have different faiths, who live differently, and who love differently. Otherwise the radicalization will be difficult to stop."
"Deeply sad for Jo Cox and the British people. Through her it's our democratic ideals that were targeted. Never accept that!"
"I join you in expressing my deep sorrow that a young parliamentarian, who obviously was a young woman of enormous talent, has been killed in the conduct of her duties with her constituency. It is an assault on everybody who cares about and has faith in democracy. And our thoughts are profoundly with the family – her husband, her children – and with all of the British people, who I know feel the loss profoundly."
"Jo fought to help the refugees from the Syrian civil war – she gave a voice to those whose cry for help she felt was not being heard."
"It changed attitudes and I know it contributed to a change in policy. She will never know how many lives she helped transform. Today, doing that job, she senselessly lost her own life."
"The UK is a beacon for peaceful politics and we hope that the British public ... can make their democratic choices serenely and in a safe way next week."
"My thoughts are with her family, her friends, and the British people. It was a true shock to me that a British politician was killed during the campaign."
"This is utterly shocking and tragic news, which has left everyone stunned."
"She was held in huge regard as a brilliant young woman, who had already contributed a huge amount in her time in parliament, and today she was simply going about her job as a local MP."
"We are heartbroken by the loss to her family and country of MP Jo Cox. My love and our love to them, in this time of unbearable grief."
"Absolutely sickened to hear of the assassination of Jo Cox. She was young, courageous, and hardworking. A rising star, mother, and wife."
"Jo was a diminutive pocket rocket from the north. She was a ball of energy, always smiling, full of new ideas, of idealism, of passion. She gave so much to Oxfam."
"People in need around the world have lost a tireless, effective and redoubtable champion today following the murder of Jo Cox MP. Her passionate advocacy, first of all working in NGOs and then in parliament as an elected representative, on behalf of vulnerable and displaced people was a study in effective activism."
"The death of Jo Cox has really affected me. Xenophobic slogans inevitably lead to violence.
"We all bear the responsibility that such a situation never happens again in Germany or Europe."
"It's fairly clear no one is quite sure what has happened. Until it's clear who was responsible and what their motivation was or it might have been, all it does is stop the campaign when the 'Remain' side probably would not want it to be stopped."
"This will hurt the momentum of the 'Leave' campaign, which has been gaining steadily in recent polls."
"It will allow British Prime Minister David Cameron an opportunity to act like a statesman and retrieve the agenda, something he has lost over the last week.
"If the incident is confirmed to have been motivated by Brexit, it will also reflect poorly on the more strident elements of the Vote Leave campaign, potentially swinging undecided voters towards 'Remain.'"
"Certainly people are talking about the possibility that this does influence the Brexit vote in favour of 'Remain'. It is a tragic event all around. There is a sense, there is an immediate emotional reaction, but there is still a week before the referendum itself."
    "It definitely is seen as part of the story, the recovery of risk. Generally you are seeing so-called riskier assets recover. All the assets, whether equities, aussie/yen or sterling/yen are recovering. They are up on the perception of a higher probability of a 'Remain' vote."
(Compiled by David Milliken, Andy Bruce, Estelle Shirbon and Ana Nicolaci da Costa, editing by Susan Thomas)

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