There was no sign of the acrimonious EU referendum campaign resuming on Friday as a stunned Britain mourned the murder of popular Labour MP Jo Cox, who had celebrated the presence of Muslims from Gujarat in her constituency in her maiden speech in Parliament last year.
As tears flowed and vigils and prayers were held for the pro-EU MP, some columnists in mainstream newspapers linked her murder in Birstall on Thursday to the toxicity generated by rival camps before the June 23 referendum. Both camps remained shaken by the murder.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared together in Cox’s Batley and Spen constituency to pay tribute. Reports said the Conservative Party had decided not to put up a candidate in the by-election that will follow.
Cox, 42, died after being shot and stabbed by a man in her constituency on Thursday.
Elected in May 2015 from west Yorkshire, Cox set out her passionately held liberal world-view as a first-time member of the House of Commons on June 3, 2015. She began by celebrating immigration and the diversity of communities in her constituency.
Popular among Indian and Asian-origin voters, Cox said in her speech: “Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages.
“Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir.
“While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
Cox’s murder made headlines across Europe, where the referendum is being keenly watched. German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged British politicians to moderate their language in the campaign.
She told journalists: “The exaggerations and radicalisation of part of the language do not help to foster an atmosphere of respect. That’s why we all value democratic game rules.
“And we know how important it is to draw limits, be it in the choice of speech, in the choice of the argument but also in the choice of partly disparaging argument. Otherwise the radicalisation will become unstoppable.”