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A far-right terrorist murdered Jo Cox. So when is the Cobra meeting?

The contrast between the murders of Lee Rigby and Jo Cox is stark. 

On Wednesday, Thomas Mair was convicted of the murder of Jo Cox, an act which the Crown Prosecution Service has categorised as terrorism. Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000 states that the an act may still be considered an act of terror even if it was not designed to influence the government or the public, as long as a firearm or explosives are involved and the act was politically, ideologically, religiously, or racially motivated. Nair’s murder of Jo Cox falls neatly under this definition. So does the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013.

And yet, the difference in the reaction to these very similar murders is astounding. After Lee Rigby was killed, the media was filled with alarmist headlines about the dangers of Islamic extremism. There was no hesitation to label Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, Rigby’s murderers, as terrorists or the murder as a terrorist attack. After Lee Rigby’s murder, even before Adebolajo and Adebowale’s trial, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, chaired an emergency Cobra meeting and the government announced a new taskforce to fight Islamic extremism. However, when it came to Mair, there was a sudden concern regarding contempt of court, and even now there is a real hesitancy to actually label him as a terrorist. Has Theresa May chaired a Cobra meeting? Has she announced a taskforce to combat far-right extremism? No. 

Days after Jo Cox’s murder, I wrote in The Staggers that we were blind to the rise of far-right extremism. Today, I see this blindness as part of a larger context where the far-right is being normalised. Take the USA as an example. The election of Donald Trump hinged on the increase visibility and support of far-right policies and behaviours, with some supporters expressing anti-Semitism and racism. However, after the election, there has been a rush to normalise not just Trump, but also the far-right extremism that got him into power. By calling itself "alt-right", the American far-right can deflect accusations of neo-nazism or white nationalism. 

What this underlines is the racial classification of behaviour, where the dangerous behaviour of men of colour is held up as an example of deviant cultural problems, while the same dangerous behaviour in white men is dismissed as an isolated incident. Hence the twisted logic where the entire Muslim population of a country is expected to apologise every time there is a terrorist attack, and yet, no such reaction is needed when a white supremacist is the terrorist.

None of this is new. This is nationalism. A nationalism which suddenly seems to be resurgent, but which immigrants and people of colour have always known was there. It is this same nationalism which has framed terrorism as a foreign problem, and stopped the government from reacting to far-right extremism with the same laser focus that it reserves for Islamic extremism. Our Prime Minister is still silent on the topic of far-right extremism. As long as this remains the case, terrorism in all its forms will continue to threaten us all.

Dr Maria Norris is a political scientist researching terrorism and national security. She is a Fellow at the  London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.

 

Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Getty
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Jeremy Corbyn: “wholesale” EU immigration has destroyed conditions for British workers

The Labour leader has told Andrew Marr that his party wants to leave the single market.

Mass immigration from the European Union has been used to "destroy" the conditions of British workers, Jeremy Corbyn said today. 

The Labour leader was pressed on his party's attitude to immigration on the Andrew Marr programme. He reiterated his belief that Britain should leave the Single Market, claiming that "the single market is dependent on membership of the EU . . . the two things are inextricably linked."

Corbyn said that Labour would argue for "tarriff-free trade access" instead. However, other countries which enjoy this kind of deal, such as Norway, do so by accepting the "four freedoms" of the single market, which include freedom of movement for people. Labour MP Chuka Umunna has led a parliamentary attempt to keep Britain in the single market, arguing that 66 per cent of Labour members want to stay. The SNP's Nicola Sturgeon said that "Labour's failure to stand up for common sense on single market will make them as culpable as Tories for Brexit disaster".

Laying out the case for leaving the single market, Corbyn used language we have rarely heard from him - blaming immigration for harming the lives of British workers.

The Labour leader said that after leaving the EU, there would still be European workers in Britain and vice versa. He added: "What there wouldn't be is the wholesale importation of underpaid workers from central Europe in order to destroy conditions, particularly in the construction industry." 

Corbyn said he would prevent agencies from advertising jobs in central Europe - asking them to "advertise in the locality first". This idea draws on the "Preston model" adopted by that local authority, of trying to prioritise local suppliers for public sector contracts. The rules of the EU prevent this approach, seeing it as discrimination. 

In the future, foreign workers would "come here on the basis of the jobs available and their skill sets to go with it. What we wouldn't allow is this practice by agencies, who are quite disgraceful they way they do it - recruit a workforce, low paid - and bring them here in order to dismiss an existing workforce in the construction industry, then pay them low wages. It's appalling. And the only people who benefit are the companies."

Corbyn also said that a government led by him "would guarantee the right of EU nationals to remain here, including a right of family reunion" and would hope for a reciprocal arrangement from the EU for British citizens abroad. 

Matt Holehouse, the UK/EU correspondent for MLex, said Corbyn's phrasing was "Ukippy". 

Asked by Andrew Marr if he had sympathy with Eurosceptics - having voted against previous EU treaties such as Maastricht - Corbyn clarified his stance on the EU. He was against a "deregulated free market across Europe", he said, but supported the "social" aspects of the EU, such as workers' rights. However, he did not like its opposition to state subsidy of industry.

On student fees, Corbyn was asked "What did you mean by 'I will deal with it'?". He said "recognised" that graduates faced a huge burden from paying off their fees but did not make a manifesto commitment to forgive the debt from previous years. However, Labour would abolish student debt from the time it was elected. Had it won the 2017 election, students in the 2017/18 intake would not pay fees (or these would be refunded). 

The interview also covered the BBC gender pay gap. Corbyn said that Labour would look at a gender pay audit in every company, and a pay ratio - no one could receive more than 20 times the salary of the lowest paid employee. "The BBC needs to look at itself . . . the pay gap is astronomical," he added. 

He added that he did not think it was "sustainable" for the government to give the DUP £1.5bn and was looking forward to another election.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.