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15 July 2016

One month on, we’ve already forgotten the lessons of Jo Cox

Amid a political whirlwind, the murdered MP has been laid to rest. 

By Julia Rampen

Brexit, a prime minister resigning, an attempted leadership coup, a new Cabinet – 16 June seems like a distant era.

But Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, was murdered nearly a month ago. 

At the time, it seemed like a moment that would change politics profoundly. The Remain and Leave camps suspended their campaigns. I met the young leader of Leave Cumbria, who had taken the train down to London to stand at the impromptu shrine to Cox. 

He told me he hoped this was a moment of transformation, where “the divisiveness, the constant bickering ends”. 

On Friday 15 July, Cox’s grieving family are finally laying her to rest. But it seems that the calls for a kinder politics will be buried with her. 

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Her husband, Brendan Cox, tweeted on the day of her funeral: “Jo wld ask us not 2 fight hate with hate but draw together 2 drain the swamp that extremism breeds in. Thinking of all victims of hatred 2day.”

Cox may have had the overnight terrorism attacks in Nice in mind, but it doesn’t make the message any less relevant. 

Since Brexit, it’s become common for embittered Remain voters to deride Leave voters as stupid. Leave voters, in turn, have shown a cavalier disregard for the 48 per cent now being pulled against their will into Brexit. Nigel Farage’s description of the vote as a “victory for decent people” is a case in point. 

In Labour, Cox’s party, tensions between the Corbyn leadership and the parliamentary Labour party have erupted. Grassroots activists shriek about Blairite scum and scabs. Rebel Labour MPs have taken to attacking Corbynites on Twitter for not turning up to constituency meetings (some retorted they had disabled children to look after). Angela Eagle, the challenger, has been personally targeted. Someone threw a brick through her constituency office window

Meanwhile, the days grind on. At the memorial to Jo Cox, held days before the EU referendum, I met an asylum seeker who had been waiting for his papers for a year and a half. He was supposed to meet with Cox in August. I met NGO workers who were worried about the cuts to mental health services. But Labour keeps tearing itself apart, and constituency MPs are intimidated. And the real losers are ordinary people who just need help with their lives.