Cameron leads mourning for slain opposition MP

He calls for tolerance in public debate and makes rare appearance with Labour leader

Floral tributes left in memory of Mrs Cox in Parliament Square, London, on Thursday. Mr Cameron has recalled Parliament on Monday to pay tribute to her.
Floral tributes left in memory of Mrs Cox in Parliament Square, London, on Thursday. Mr Cameron has recalled Parliament on Monday to pay tribute to her.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BIRSTALL • Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron called for tolerance in public debate as he led the country in mourning slain opposition Labour MP Jo Cox and recalled Parliament on Monday to pay tribute to her.

Yesterday, Mr Cameron and opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who had requested the recall, made a rare appearance together in the northern English village of Birstall, near where the 41-year-old mother of two had been gunned down on Thursday.

Though the political rivals both want Britain to stay in the European Union, they have refused to campaign together. Parliament has not been sitting to allow MPs to campaign ahead of next week's vote on Britain's EU membership.

"Where we see hatred, where we see division, where we see intolerance, we must drive it out," Mr Cameron said.

Mrs Cox's murder has thrown next Thursday's referendum into limbo, with the "Remain" and "Leave" sides suspending campaigning as a mark of respect.


She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now - one, that our precious children are bathed in love; and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.

MR BRENDAN COX, husband of Mrs Jo Cox.


Absolutely sickened to hear of the assassination of Jo Cox. She was young, courageous and hardworking. A rising star, mother and wife.

MS GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, former US congresswoman who survived a gunshot wound to the head during a shooting in 2011.


We have lost a great star. She was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion, with a big heart.



I am horrified by the assassination of British MP Jo Cox... It is critical that the United States and Britain, two of the world's oldest and greatest democracies, stand together against hatred and violence. This is how we must honour Jo Cox - by rejecting bigotry in all its forms, and instead embracing, as she always did, everything that binds us together.

MRS HILLARY CLINTON, presumptive US Democratic presidential nominee.


If the incident is confirmed to have been motivated by Brexit, it will also reflect poorly on the more strident elements of the Vote Leave campaign, potentially swinging undecided voters towards 'Remain'.

MR MUJTABA RAHMAN, head of Europe practice at Eurasia Group.

The suspect is a 52-year-old man named Thomas Mair, described by neighbours as a loner and who, according to his brother, has a history of mental illness. Mair is also alleged to have links to neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.

There have been no charges in connection with the killing.

In Birstall, a usually quiet town of a few thousand people, mourners laid flowers at a monument near the scene of the attack. One message left beside the flowers read: "Fascists feed on fear".

As the June 23 referendum draws near, the tone of campaigning has become ugly and included bitter personal recriminations as well as furious debate on issues such as immigration and the economy.

Some analysts have suggested that sympathy for Mrs Cox could boost the "Remain" campaign, which opinion polls indicate had fallen behind "Leave".

In London, Britain's Union flag was flying at half-mast over the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the Prime Minister's Downing Street residence.

Queen Elizabeth was due to write a private letter of condolence to the Cox family.

While some mourners laid flowers and candles outside the Houses of Parliament, others put them on the houseboat on the River Thames where Mrs Cox had lived with her husband and two young children.

Mrs Cox's murder would have a sobering effect on the final days of campaigning, said some analysts.

"It has been a rather bitter campaign, with personality conflicts. It might calm people down in a more sober manner," said Professor Wyn Grant of Warwick University.

A writer for Spectator magazine blamed the "Leave" campaign for raising tensions. "When you encourage rage, you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged," wrote Mr Alex Massie in an online article that quickly went viral.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged British political parties to tone down the debate.

"The exaggerations and radicalisation of... language do not help to foster an atmosphere of respect," she said in response to a question.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2016, with the headline 'Cameron leads mourning for slain opposition MP'. Subscribe