It is hardly surprising that direction of travel in politics tends to be downwards. Those with the serenity to soar above their opponent as he descends and seeks to demand you come with him are rare indeed. It is why they are remembered.
And so, in the white heat of the nation’s most febrile hour in decades, a terrible event occurs and we cannot help ourselves. Sound and fury weigh down in great tonnage on the shoulders of a fragile fact, as if a definitive answer to the question as to whether the words “Britain First” were or weren’t heard in the midst of this act of unimaginable violence could somehow be enough to package up the horror and hand it to one side. It is an unedifying sideshow to the already appalling spectacle.
Yet in the last 24 hours people have taken up Jo Cox’s causes, given money to her charities: Oxfam, Save the Children, and the NSPCC. They should take up her politics too. Yes, she fought for Syrian refugees and died within hours of the crass exploitation of their misfortune. But this is not a parallel she would have rushed to draw with such fetid urgency.
I have heard it suggested that these tragic events should be a rallying cry. That whatever the motivations of her troubled killer, she stood and fought for the people and the principles the other side seek to denigrate. Indeed, that the referendum must now be won, for her.
It is a stirring sentiment, but that is exploitative too. These were not her politics. Had someone else been the victim of this brutality, it is not a rallying cry she would have issued herself.
Whenever I am confused by politics and by politicians – which is often – I always revert to looking at them through the prism of Gandhi’s great challenge: “Become the change you want to see in the world.” If you see a politician and the answer isn’t immediately obvious, the likelihood is the change they want to see in the world is merely the magnification of their own place within it.
That most people have only heard of Jo Cox for 24 hours appears to be in no small way down to her total disregard for her own status. She was not out to score points, but simply to fight for change.
Probably, no lasting change will come of all this; it rarely does. But, at least for a short while, might it not be possible, however hard, to try and ascend where others descend? To look to the horizon and seek to soar, not dive into the gutter to see who’s up for a fight?
It is what she did, and what she should have done for a long time yet.
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