The official remain campaign, Britain Stronger In Europe, has seized upon the death of MP Jo Cox to promote its cause just days before the British electorate head to the ballot box to decide on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU).
The campaign’s director Will Straw, son of the prominent Labour MP Jack Straw, has sent Remain supporters an email exhorting them to use Mrs. Cox’s death to attack the opposing Leave campaign by equating them with the politics of hate.
“Jo Cox was a friend of mine – and a passionate voice in our campaign to remain in Europe,” the email reads. “Her death was an unimaginable tragedy – but we won’t let her voice be silenced.”
He includes the text of the last article Cox wrote before her death which argued that leaving the EU would not help to control immigration levels, while remaining in would allow the UK to use EU funding to mitigate the pressures of high migration on social services.
Written for PoliticsHome, it has since been republished in a number of papers and on the Britain Stronger In website.
Straw encourages Remain supporters to share the article with their undecided friends, providing a link to post it on Facebook.
Blogger Guido Fawkes has obtained a recording of a conference call between Mr. Straw and campaigners in which he laid out his strategy to deploy her untimely death in their campaign to keep Britain in the EU.
“We need to recognise that people have been pulled up short by Jo Cox’s death and it is now time to make a very positive case for why we want to be in the European Union… to call out the other side for what they have done to stir division and resentment in the UK. That is something we must all do,” he said.
In the last few days Remain supporters have promoted a narrative blaming Mrs. Cox’s death on an apparent climate of hate which they accuse the Leave campaign of whipping up in the run up to the referendum. Reflecting that narrative in his strategy, Mr. Straw called for Remain campaigners to explicitly link the values of tolerance and decency to their agenda.
“Over the next few days, in all the conversations you have with people, in all the campaigning that you do, just think about this,” he said. “This is what we think is the closing argument of the campaign, reflecting all the arguments that we have been setting out for many months but also the new context that we’re in. What we want to say is people should vote Remain on Thursday for more jobs, lower prices, workers’ rights, stronger public services and a decent, tolerant United Kingdom.”
His strategy is likely to find a warm reception among Remain campaigners, some of whom had already deployed his tactics preemptively.
On Saturday, despite the official campaign groups calling a halt to campaigning in respect for Mrs. Cox and her family, a Labour councillor on Kettering District Council took to Facebook to call on people to “do all we can” to “avert the Brexit disaster,” which she said stood for “fear and hate”.
Shocking post from a Kettering Labour Councillor that should know better. Using a horrific event as a political tool pic.twitter.com/rkSBlYGF4b
— Sam Watts UKIP (@swattsnhants) June 19, 2016
Locals reacted angrily, setting up a petition calling for her to stand down as a councillor.
“It is not right for anyone to use the horrific murder of Jo Cox MP as a political tool nor is it right to alienate around half of those you serve by saying they stand for hate and fear, or that they are on par with a mentally disturbed murderer,” the petition reads.