EU campaign suspended after Labour MP shot dead

EU campaign suspended after Labour MP shot dead
Jo Cox, an advocate of Syrian refugees, and a lifelong humanitarian campaigner, was murdered near her constituency surgery.
5 min read
16 June, 2016
Jo Cox was formerly a top Oxfam campaigner [Twitter]
Jo Cox, the Labour MP, has died after being shot and stabbed several times outside her West Yorkshire constituency surgery, police have announced. A 77-year-old man was also injured, police have said. It is thought he was stabbed.

Cox, the founder and chair of the All Party Parliamentary 'Friends of Syria' group, was left bleeding on the pavement in the town of Birstall, near the library where she held consultations with her constituents. 

It has been reported her attacker shouted "Britain first" - a possible reference to a far-right fringe nationalist movement of the same name - as at least two gun shots were fired. Cox has been an ardent supporter of the campaign for Britain to remain inside the European Union.

"I was inside the shop and all I heard was a scream and then the gunshot," a shopkeeper told reporters. Unconfirmed reports said the 41-year-old mother-of-two was kicked while injured on the ground.

A second eyewitness, Haithem Ben Abdallah, said a passerby, understood to be the second person injured in the attack, had attempted to help the MP as her attacker kicked her and pulled her hair.

"A very courageous man from the dry cleaners tried to restrain him, and he couldn't stop him because all of a sudden he pulled a gun," the witness told the Press Association.

"She was a standing still target for him when he shot her."

The MP for Batley and Spen "had a lifelong record of public service and a deep commitment to humanity", said Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"Jo was dedicated to getting us to live up to our promises to support the developing world and strengthen human rights - and she brought those values and principles with her when she became an MP," Corbyn added.

"Jo died doing her public duty at the heart of our democracy, listening to and representing the people she was elected to serve. It is a profoundly important cause for us all."

Police suspect the attack was a lone incident, said Dee Collins, the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police. Some weapons have been recovered, Collins added.
Jo Cox spoke several times in parliament
on the importance of support for Syrian civilians

"Armed officers attended and a 52-year-old man was arrested in the area," said West Yorkshire Police in an statement.

"Police presence in the area has been increased as a reassurance to the community."

The identity of the alleged attacker has not been officially revealed, although local media speculation has focused on the occupant of a home in the town which was cordoned off by police shortly after an arrest was made. The New Arab will not be releasing the occupant's name while legal proceedings are active.

Police appear to believe they have the culprit in custody, saying they were "not looking for anyone else in connection with this incident".


The motivations for the attack remain unknown, but Cox was an active internationalist, having served as Oxfam's head of policy and humanitarian campaigning. Police have not confirmed the attacker shouted the words "Britain first", though more than one witness has told media of the outburst.

Paul Golding, the leader of Britain First, released an online video, stating: "We have to separate hearsay from fact... This is the kind of country we live in now, where our MPs are being shot and stabbed on the streets.

"This is a despicable crime that's been carried out on the streets of Yorkshire... And at the moment, we don't know what was said."

The far-right figurehead added that the language alleged to have been used, such as "Britain first", "put Britain first" or "put British people first", has been widespread and used extensively during the EU referendum campaign by several groups fighting to leave the union - not just his group.

"The media are acting grossly irresponsible to try to incriminate our organisation, Britain First, in this heinous crime. We had nothing to do with it... I was in the office stuffing envelopes this afternoon.

"We hope that this person who carried it out is strung up by the neck on the nearest lamp-post. That's the way we view justice." 
Jo was dedicated to getting us to live up to our promises to support the developing world and strengthen human rights
- Jeremy Corbyn

Jo Cox had taken on Syria as a specific cause since her election to parliament in 2015, and campaigned for 3,000 Syrian refugee children to be admitted into the United Kingdom.

"As that conflict enters its sixth barbaric year, desperate Syrian families are being forced to make an impossible decision: stay and face starvation, rape, persecution and death, or make a perilous journey to find sanctuary elsewhere," the Labour MP told parliament in April.

"Who can blame desperate parents for wanting to escape the horror that their families are experiencing? Children are being killed on their way to school, children as young as seven are being forcefully recruited to the frontline and one in three children have grown up knowing nothing but fear and war. Those children have been exposed to things no child should ever witness, and I know I would risk life and limb to get my two precious babies out of that hellhole...

"In the shanty towns of Calais and Dunkirk, the aid workers I spent a decade with on the frontline - as an aid worker myself - tell me that the children there face some of the most horrific circumstances in the world. Surely we have to do the right thing tonight."​

She was also strong supporter of British military action "to protect civilians" in Syria by enforcing a no-fly zone.

"Preventing the regime from killing civilians, and signalling intent to Russia, is far more likely to compel the regime to the negotiating table than anything currently being done or mooted," she wrote in The Observer last year.

"Of course, a military approach by itself won't work, nor will any of the other components. Only through an integrated strategy with the protection of civilians at its core can we rescue something from this crisis."

Both sides of Britain's deeply divisive in-out European Union referendum campaign have suspended operations in the wake of her murder.

Prime Minister David Cameron has cancelled a speaking event in Gibraltar this evening, while both the Britain Stronger In Europe and Vote Leave campaigns announced all campaigning - including on their "battle buses" - would be halted.

Campaigning will not resume until Saturady at the earliest, Downing Street has confirmed.