The widower of Jo Cox has described a “malaise in our politics” which he says contributed to the atmosphere around his wife’s killing.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Brendan Cox denied that the Labour MP’s death was specifically connected to the result of the EU referendum but said that “something deeper” was going on at the time.
He said: “I think the referendum was clearly a moment of heightened contention and heightened debate and some of that sometimes got out of control.
“But I think that has nothing to do with the 52% of people who that voted for Brexit. Jo was always very clear that this was a completely legitimate choice and there were good reasons for staying and good reasons for going.
“For me what contributed to the atmosphere of Jo’s death wasn’t just about heightened tension of the referendum debate.
“It was something deeper, a deeper malaise about our politics, which is an increasing propensity to blame others for our problems, whether that’s migrants or Muslims or Europe.”
Cox said that at the time of his wife’s death, they had both discussed what felt like a negative change in the political climate, in both the UK and many other parts of the world.
He told Marr: “We had always been very optimistic people, optimistic in our own lives, optimistic about politics and the future of our country, and I think in the last couple of years we started to think that something was going wrong, not just in the UK but if you look at the rise of Trump in the US, Le Pen in France, AFD in Germany, there is this focus on what divides us rather than what brings us together, which I don’t think we’ve seen in this form really since the 1930s.
“We felt that very strongly but Jo also felt it personally when she, for example, criticised Jeremy Corbyn for his leadership, the torrents of abuse that she got from that or when she voted in a different way from some of the rest of the party on Syria, the abuse that she got. Angela Eagle got a similar unbelievable level of abuse for standing against Jeremy Corbyn.
“This week, Gary Lineker for saying quite generic things about his sympathy with refugees has been lampooned by a section of the media and has had an incredible amount of vitriol.”
Cox added that he felt that the “patriotic narrative” needed to be taken back from far-right groups.
He said: “There is something which is stirring that I think at the moment the political centre is too complacent about.
“Part of it is about seizing a patriotic narrative. Britain has a long tradition of tolerance, of diversity, of being an outward-looking nation. Many of the things which made us a great country.
“I think we’ve ceded that narrative of patriotism, particularly to the extreme right and we need to regain that narrative and define Britain in an inclusive way that brings us together rather than blame the migrant or the refugee or the Muslim for what might be going on in our country in any individual time.”
Cox, 41, was killed outside her Batley and Spen constituency office, on 16 June.
Local man Thomas Mair has been charged with her murder and is scheduled to go on trial in November.