“This will play well for us,” said a Labour pro-Remain figure on Saturday responding to the murder of pro-Remain Labour MP Jo Cox.
Will Straw, director of the Remain campaign, has been caught red-handed advising his team how to exploit Cox’s death by playing up the message that Leave represent “division and resentment” while only Remain represents “decent, tolerant Britain.”
This is what the left means by “dog-whistle” politics.
Only this time, it’s the left which is blowing that whistle.
Here, as Guido reports, is what Will Straw said in a highly embarrassing leaked audio file.
“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… 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.”
The language is cautious, mealy-mouthed but the message is clear. To paraphrase: ‘Never mind the issues – just focus on Jo Cox. They didn’t buy Project Fear; they didn’t buy Project Lies; but they might just be sold on Project Grief.’
And Straw may have a point for, since the murder of Jo Cox, there has been a dramatic shift in Remain’s fortunes. Where before they were trailing in the polls, now they have pulled ahead.
Yes, there’s a story doing the rounds that this is because the public are becoming increasingly concerned about economic issues and that these favour Remain. But I suspect that this is just Remain spin to cover their own embarrassment at the unseemly way they’ve been using Jo Cox’s death to their advantage.
Here’s Katie Hopkins, telling it like it is:
Ask yourself what would have happened had it been Nigel Farage not Jo Cox slain on a pavement, whether they would have called for kinder Politics?
I suspect in some quarters they would declare he brought it on himself. How they laughed when his family were attacked whilst trying to enjoy a family lunch in a pub.
As we move into the final few days of the campaign, the ugly ambition of Remain will be to keep the Jo Cox story alive – at least in print – until June 23.
There is no end to the stunts set up to ensure this story has legs and keeps running – when most of us just want the family left in peace to grieve and find some sleep.
Regrettably for the state of British politics, she’s probably right.
First came the pilgrimage by the two main party leaders David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn – both pro-Remain – to lay wreaths in Cox’s constituency in Birstall, West Yorkshire and preach the virtues of “tolerance” and “democracy”. (More dogwhistling: if you don’t believe in these virtues than you must be Vote Leave).
Then yesterday, Parliament was recalled from its summer recess for a special sitting. Ostensibly to celebrate the life and the “kinder, gentler politics” apparently embodied by Jo Cox; but also, unfortunately, to allow campaigners like MP Stephen Kinnock – son of two of the EU’s more voracious apparatchiks Neil and Glenys – yet more dogwhistling opportunities by talking about “hope not fear, respect not hate, unity not division”. (Unity: you mean, like, in a “not leaving the EU” kind of way, Stephen?)
After that will come the funeral which – let us pray – will remain a private affair.
If you think this is normal procedure for when a parliamentarian is killed while in office, you’d be mistaken.
It didn’t happen after Conservative MP Ian Gow was assassinated with an IRA bomb in 1990.
Nor did it happen in 1979 when Airey Neave – a wartime hero (one of the few men to escape from Colditz) and also a personal friend of the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – was murdered in similar fashion by another Irish Republican terror group the INLA.
For the Government of the day it was business as usual. This included the by-election following Ian Gow’s death. Unlike the one in Cox’s constituency, which is to go uncontested by any of the main parties, Gow’s constituency held a by-election after his death which ended up being won by a Liberal Democrat.
It is very hard not to escape the depressing conclusion that Remain campaigners, including the Prime Minister have – Rahm-Emanuel-style – seized the crisis of Jo Cox’s murder and turned it into an opportunity.
This may strike them as sensible now: they’re politicians and they want to win.
But as Charles Moore points out it could well cause resentment far more bitter and long lasting than anything we have experienced in this referendum.
As so often in the history of attempts to keep us in the EU, this causes a feeling of bad faith which would create further division if Remain were to win.
Douglas Murray, too, is well worth heeding in the Spectator.
From what we have already seen, those in favour of ‘Remain’ will find it impossible not to attempt to make political capital from this brutal murder in a campaign that the polls previously showed them losing. Is it too much to ask for some decency? Perhaps. About 50% of the population have one view of our membership of the EU, and about 50% have another view.
I can already see the temptation of some ‘Remainers’. They may keep it subtle. They may insist that a vote for ‘Remain’ is a vote for ‘the future’ and ‘Leave’ a vote for ‘the past’. Or they may try to say that a vote to stay in the EU is a vote against ‘hatred’ and for ‘hope’ or the politics of ‘unity’ over those of ‘division’.
If they do then they should be aware that they are using the actions of a madman, extremist or terrorist (or all three) as a means to further their own political goals. They would be doing precisely what we try so hard, unanimously and generally successfully to stop Islamist gunmen from being able to do.
Such a move would bring about the triumph of the assassin’s veto in our society – something which could not only have appalling short-term consequences, but bloody long-term ones as well. I trust that those campaigning for ‘Remain’ recognise that a victory achieved on those terms would be the sourest and most divisive victory of all.
“Can’t we show some decency about Jo Cox’s death?” his piece is entitled. The question – at least as far as Remain’s behaviour is concerned – is entirely rhetorical.