The husband of murdered MP Jo Cox has warned of a “worrying tone of political debate” in the UK after the Batley and Spen by-election.
Brendan Cox said some candidates who vied for votes yesterday had tried to “divide communities, to turn people against each other and pour petrol on flames rather than bringing communities together”.
It comes after his wife was killed in the same constituency by a neo-Nazi a week before the EU referendum in 2016.
Brendan Cox told The Independent the by-election was characterised by “intimidation and abuse”, with canvassers experiencing physical attacks.
Jo Cox’s sister, Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater who won the by-election, was followed by an anti-LGBT+ activist and shouted at about “indoctrination” in schools.
Another group of Labour campaigners were “kicked in the head” and attacked with eggs last weekend, according to former Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin.
A day before, far-right candidate Anne Marie Waters, who ran on behalf of For Britain movement, an anti-Islam party set up by her, called a day of action.
And former actor and failed London Mayor Laurence Fox organised a “free speech” rally in the area ahead of the election.
There have also been reports of political posters being removed and fake leaflets being distributed.
Brendan Cox said there is a “fine line between robust political debate, which is absolutely essential, and intimidation and abuse”.
He added: “I think at times it has crossed over into intimidation and abuse, whether that’s of Kim or whether that’s of activists on the street. Whichever party is at the receiving end of that, I think it is a real problem for our politics.
“The reality is that people who are willing to use violent rhetoric, to rile people up and to generate a level of hostility and anger, share responsibility in the consequences of that.”
After the terror attack against his wife, many people spread Jo Cox’s words in an attempt to reach a kinder way of going about politics.
In her maiden parliamentary speech, Jo Cox said people have “far more in common than things that divide us”.
Despite this, her husband thinks some politicians still use division tactics to gain voters, but he believes they will be “on the losing side of history”.
“The tone of the political debate is something that should worry us – the willingness of people to scream and shout at each other, to paint these very simplistic pictures or us versus them, of goodies versus evil,” he said.