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Jo Cox murder suspect gives his name as "death to traitors, freedom for Britain"

Thomas Mair, 52, appears at Westminster Magistrates' Court charged with multiple offences in relation to the killing of Jo Cox MP.

A man has been charged with murder following the shooting of Labour MP Jo Cox. Thomas Mair, 52, of Birstall was also charged with grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon, West Yorkshire police said in a statement. Asked to give his name at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Saturday morning, he replied: "My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain". 

Cox, 41, who was MP for Batley and Spen, was shot and stabbed outside her constituency office in Birstall at lunchtime on Thursday. Police said a 77-year-old man remained in a stable condition in hospital after he was injured when he "bravely intervened" in an effort to help the mother of two.

Parliament will be recalled on Monday to allow MPs to pay tribute to Cox. The Remain and Leave sides in the EU referendum have suspended national campaigning since her death. At the Joseph Priestley memorial in Birstall on Friday, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn delivered tributes to Cox. 

The Prime Minister said: "Today our nation is rightly shocked and I think it is time to take a moment to stand back and think about some of the things that are so important about our country.

"The fact that we should treasure and value our democracy, where members of Parliament are in the public, accountable to the public, available to the public. And that’s how Jo died, she died doing her job. I think the second thing is that we should recognise that politics is about public service. People who go into public life want to act in the national interest, they want to pursue the national interest, to do things for other people to make the country and make the world a better place. Politicians disagree with each other, we often disregard what politicians say and we disregard each other. But that is what it is about and that is what Jo showed it is all about."

The Labour leader said: "Ours is a country where tolerance and respect for other people and different viewpoints have always been highly valued.

"We must not allow those who peddle hatred, terror and division to poison and degrade our national and political life.

"Jo Cox stood for tolerance, justice, peace and human rights. If any good can come from her killing it should be for us to come together as a country and face down hatred and intolerance in our society."

US president Barack Obama phoned Brendan Cox, the late MP's husband, from Air Force One to offer his condolences. A White House statement said: "The president noted that the world is a better place because of her selfless service to others, and that there can be no justification for this heinous crime, which robbed a family, a community, and a nation of a dedicated wife, mother and public servant."

A fundraising appeal launched in Cox's memory has raised more than £200,000 to support The Royal Voluntary Service, anti-extremism group Hope Not Hate and The White Helmets, which provides search and rescue workers in Syria.

The Conservatives, Ukip and the Liberal Democrats have said that they will not contest the forthcoming Batley and Spen by-election. 

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Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan are both slippery self-mythologisers – so why do we rate one more than the other?

Their obsessions with their childhoods have both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

Andy Burnham is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s widely seen as an unprincipled flip-flopper.

Sadiq Khan is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s the hugely popular mayor of London, the voice of those who’d be proud to think of themselves as the metropolitan liberal elite, and is even talked of as a possible future leader of the Labour party.

Oh, and also they were both born in 1970. So that’s a thing they have in common, too.

Why it is this approach to politics should have worked so much better for the mayor of London than the would-be mayor of Manchester is something I’ve been trying to work out for a while. There are definite parallels between Burnham’s attempts to present himself as a normal northern bloke who likes normal things like football, and Sadiq’s endless reminders that he’s a sarf London geezer whose dad drove a bus. They’ve both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

And yes, Burnham apparent tendency to switch sides, on everything from NHS privatisation to the 2015 welfare vote to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, has given him a reputation for slipperiness. But Sadiq’s core campaign pledge was to freeze London transport fares; everyone said it was nonsense, and true to form it was, and you’d be hard pressed to find an observer who thought this an atypical lapse on the mayor’s part. (Khan, too, has switched sides on the matter of Jeremy Corbyn.)

 And yet, he seems to get away with this, in a way that Burnham doesn’t. His low-level duplicity is factored in, and it’s hard to judge him for it because, well, it’s just what he’s like, isn’t it? For a long time, the Tory leadership’s line on London’s last mayor was “Boris is Boris”, meaning, look, we don’t trust him either, but what you gonna do? Well: Sadiq is Sadiq.

Even the names we refer to them by suggest that one of these two guys is viewed very differently from the other. I’ve instinctively slipped into referring to the mayor of London by his first name: he’s always Sadiq, not Khan, just as his predecessors were Boris and Ken. But, despite Eoin Clarke’s brief attempt to promote his 2015 leadership campaign with a twitter feed called “Labour Andy”, Burnham is still Burnham: formal, not familiar. 

I’ve a few theories to explain all this, though I’ve no idea which is correct. For a while I’ve assumed it’s about sincerity. When Sadiq Khan mentions his dad’s bus for the 257th time in a day, he does it with a wink to the audience, making a crack about the fact he won’t stop going on about it. That way, the message gets through to the punters at home who are only half listening, but the bored lobby hacks who’ve heard this routine two dozen times before feel they’re in the joke.

Burnham, it seems to me, lacks this lightness of touch: when he won’t stop banging on about the fact he grew up in the north, it feels uncomfortably like he means it. And to take yourself seriously in politics is sometimes to invite others to make jokes at your expense.

Then again, perhaps the problem is that Burnham isn’t quite sincere enough. Sadiq Khan genuinely is the son of a bus-driving immigrant: he may keep going on about it, but it is at least true. Burnham’s “just a northern lad” narrative is true, too, but excludes some crucial facts: that he went to Cambridge, and was working in Parliament aged 24. Perhaps that shouldn’t change how we interpret his story; but I fear, nonetheless, it does.

Maybe that’s not it, though: maybe I’m just another London media snob. Because Burnham did grow up at the disadvantaged end of the country, a region where, for too many people, chasing opportunities means leaving. The idea London is a city where the son of a bus driver can become mayor flatters our metropolitan self-image; the idea that a northerner who wants to build a career in politics has to head south at the earliest opportunity does the opposite. 

So if we roll our eyes when Burnham talks about the north, perhaps that reflects badly on us, not him: the opposite of northern chippiness is southern snobbery.

There’s one last possibility for why we may rate Sadiq Khan more highly than Andy Burnham: Sadiq Khan won. We can titter a little at the jokes and the fibs but he is, nonetheless, mayor of London. Andy Burnham is just the bloke who lost two Labour leadership campaigns.

At least – for now. In six weeks time, he’s highly likely to the first mayor of Greater Manchester. Slipperiness is not the worst quality in a mayor; and so much of the job will be about banging the drum for the city, and the region, that Burnham’s tendency to wear his northernness on his sleeve will be a positive boon.

Sadiq Khan’s stature has grown because the fact he became London’s mayor seems to say something, about the kind of city London is and the kind we want it to be. Perhaps, after May, Andy Burnham can do the same for the north – and the north can do the same for Andy Burnham.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.