The Racist Brexit Campaign And The Murder of Jo Cox

THE shocking and brutal murder of the British Labour MP Jo Cox, who was shot and stabbed in the street outside a meeting in her constituency on 16 June, has brought into sharp relief the rise of far-right racist and xenophobic forces in the UK over the last few years of neoliberal crisis and austerity. The referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union or leave it has intensified this racist public discourse to fever pitch in recent weeks, with right- wing campaigners for leaving, or ‘Brexit’, spearheaded by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and a section of the Conservative Party led by ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson, successfully turning it into a referendum on immigration. Their scapegoating of refugees and migrants, attempting to blame them for the effects of austerity such as the housing and jobs crisis with openly racist propaganda has been compared to that of the Nazis against the Jews in pre-WWII Germany. Jo Cox, who was elected to her Yorkshire constituency for the first time in 2015, was targeted because she had determinedly advocated for the rights of refugees and in support of multiculturalism. Thomas Mair, who has been accused of her murder, gave his name in court as ‘Death to traitors, freedom for Britain’ echoing the vicious slogans of the far-right Britain First party with which he had links. Despite evidence of Mair’s long history of association with far-right groups in Britain, the US and South Africa, the British media has continued to describe him as a ‘timid gardener’ suffering from ‘mental turmoil’, underlying the hypocrisy and racialized double standards which make them all too eager to brand any Muslim as a ‘terrorist’. Groups like Britain First which openly espouse violence (and have made statements that Muslim politicians are their next target) remain off the British government’s long list of terrorist groups. Meanwhile the supposedly more ‘respectable’ UKIP is equally culpable: just a month before the murder, its leader Nigel Farage had stated that violence on the streets was the ‘next step’ if immigration was not controlled. All major political parties have said they do not intend to contest the upcoming by-election in Jo Cox’s seat following the murder, out of respect for her family and colleagues. But far-right political party Liberty GB, which lists as its main aims; "halting the Islamisation of Britain" and "promoting British values and assimilation rather than multiculturalism" has announced its intention to contest. At the same time, the murder of the 41-year old MP has led to a huge popular outpouring of condemnation, and redoubled mobilising against racism and in support of refugees.

Liberation Archive