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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 works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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