This country is in a strange state this week. On Wednesday Jo Cox, Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen, was savagely murdered by a madman as she left her constituency surgery.
The motive is as-yet unclear, but the attacker may have shouted ‘Britain First’ and Jo Cox is a prominent campaigner for remaining in the EU and for the rights of refugees, who has apparently received months of threats and abuse from right-wing extremists. (As I post this, the murderer has just given his name in Court as ‘Freedom to Britain and death to traitors.’)
This grotesque attack, which leaves her husband a widower and her two young children without a mother, has been condemned as the worst example of the hatreds this Referendum has brought to the surface. The fact that Jo Cox was so much-loved in her constituency and so widely-admired in Parliament makes it an especially bitter point in our recent history.
Commentators and members of the public since have wondered what this says about where we are as a country, and what terrible direction we are going in. And yet the bravery of the 77-year old constituent stabbed trying to protect Jo Cox and the policemen who disarmed her attacker, and the public reaction to her death make one feel enormously optimistic. Instead of being a flashpoint for further violence, the cold realisation of the moment and instant rush of compassion that we all felt on hearing the news seem to have brought the country to its senses.
Both Referendum campaigns ceased at once out of respect, and the mood of previous days, when even close friends were snarling at each other online, dissipated at once. I don’t think it is only my imagination that on Friday morning people spoke to each more quietly, more respectfully, and more kindly.