The Guardian has good coverage of the political assassination that occurred today in Birstall, England. Freshman Labour MP Jo Cox was cut down by a madman wielding a gun and a knife, and reportedly yelling “Britain First.”
That’s probably a reference to the Brexit debate going on in Britain right now. Polls show that the public is going to vote to sever ties to the European Union in a June 23rd referendum. On the other hand, the “Britain First” thing may have been a reference to a far-right party of the same name.
Our attention should be first and foremost on the victim and her family, and only secondarily on the motivations for and repercussions of this murder.
Jo Cox was an interesting person. She was the mother of two small children. She and her husband’s London home was a barge in the Thames where they were scheduled to have a large solstice party next week. She was an advisor to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s wife. Prior to becoming a MP, she served as the Global Policy Director of Oxfam.
Since becoming an MP, she argued strenuously in favor of humanitarian intervention in Syria. And she was staunchly in favor of Britain remaining in the European Union. She had initially supported Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, but had revoked her support more recently, accusing Corbyn of “weak leadership, poor judgment and a mistaken sense of priorities.”
Here are some eyewitness accounts of what happened to her:
The shopkeeper in a greengrocer opposite Birstall library, Golden D’Licious, told the Guardian that he believed the attacker had been waiting for the MP outside the library.
“I was inside the shop and all I heard was a scream and then the gunshot,” he said, without giving his name. “I went out and everyone was dispersing. I couldn’t see because it happened behind a car.”
Terry Flynn-Edwards, who runs the Divine hair studio opposite the scene of the attack, said a man from the dry cleaners had tried to stop the assault. She said: “She walked out of the library with her PA and he was waiting for her. He stabbed her first and this guy tried to stop him and then he shot her.”
But one witness, Hithem Ben Abdallah, 56, who was in the cafe next door to the library shortly after 1pm, said the MP was involved in an altercation between two arguing men.
He told PA a man in a baseball cap “suddenly pulled a gun from his bag” and after a brief scuffle with another man the MP became involved.
He added: “He was fighting with her and wrestling with her and then the gun went off twice and then she fell between two cars and I came and saw her bleeding on the floor.”
Clarke Rothwell, another witness, told BBC News there was a direct altercation between Cox and a man carrying a gun, who “purposefully” targeted her.
“He shot this lady and then shot her again,” he said. “He lent down. Someone was wrestling with him and he was wielding a knife and lunging at her. Three times she was shot. People were trying to help her.”
This is a terrible tragedy, and we’ll need to learn more before we reach any conclusions about motivation. If it was related to her support for remaining in the E.U., it could bolster that side in the referendum. If was related to her support for Syrian intervention, it might have the opposite effect.
But enough speculation. For now, let’s just offer our condolences.