On the 16th June 2016, the Labour MP Jo Cox was about to hold a drop-in surgery with her constituents when she was fatally shot and stabbed by a man with links to far-right extremist groups. Tributes poured in from her colleagues in parliament, and other high-profile political figures from around the world, such as Justin Trudeau and Hillary Clinton. Jo Cox was the first sitting MP to be murdered since 1990. There have been memorials in her honour, and charitable foundations developed by her grieving husband, Brendan. These aimed to ensure that her good deeds would live on, and that the ideals she stood for were not obliterated on that day, with the obscene actions of a hateful man.
Why am I bringing this up now? When Thomas Mair attacked Jo Cox, his war cry was “Britain First”.
The organisation Britain First denied any involvement in the attack, suggesting that the phrase “could have been a slogan rather than a reference to our party”, but the ideological damage that this party can do is clear. The far-right nationalist movement has long railed against multiculturalism and incited racial hatred, stoking fires wherever it could with grotesque propaganda campaigns that are packed full of lies and misrepresentations. They are an organisation that I don’t want to pay any more attention to than absolutely necessary, because attention is what feeds them.
And last week, they were ‘gifted’ attention from none other than President Donald Trump. As Dustin said last week, even Infowars thought this was “not great optics”.
With those re-tweets, Trump did more damage to his ‘special relationship’ with the UK than almost anything else he has done so far. Theresa May criticised his actions immediately, at which point instead of saying sorry, he doubled down, tweeting at the wrong Theresa May initially, and then finally locating the Prime Minister’s twitter handle to tell her that she’s not doing enough to tackle terrorism in the UK. Either no-one explained to him that ‘Britain First are a hate group, who are themselves a terrorist threat in the UK and by the way an MP was murdered in their name not long ago’, or he doesn’t care.
By re-tweeting videos from Britain First, he is showing support for an organisation whose acolyte brutally assassinated one of our politicians. This is not what an ally does.
Parliament has long been divided as to whether Trump’s invitation for a state visit was misguided. You’ll be pleased to know that even as divisions continue over myriad issues (how’s that Brexit going? Don’t ask), there is widespread agreement that Trump’s re-tweets were despicable, and maybe he isn’t that welcome after all. The visit, scheduled for February, has been scaled back to a ‘working visit’ rather than a ‘state visit’, which I think means no gold carriage, but that’s not enough for some British politicians. There are calls for him to be seen as comparable to Robert Mugabe for his behaviour. There are calls for him to be arrested for inciting racial hatred. That’s how angry we are.
UK lawmakers want to stop Trump’s state visit after he ‘sowed seeds of hatred’ with his unhinged Twitter account pic.twitter.com/o6dczukBZA— NowThis (@nowthisnews) December 1, 2017
Of course, criticising Trump is like saying Bloody Mary three times in front of a mirror; a creature of your nightmares inevitably appears. Trump’s British guard dog is an odious hate-merchant; a notorious pint-swilling apologist for fascists; a cross between a pantomime villain and a toad, who likes to claim credit for the worst impulses of humanity because he thinks it makes him ‘in touch with the people’; a guy who would cheer on a turd as long as there was some Union flag bunting hanging off it: Nigel Farage. Here he is, attempting to defend Trump.
If you couldn’t hear any of that over the sound of your own swearing, here’s part of the exchange:
“He wouldn’t have an earthly clue who Britain First were—”
“That makes him stupid.”
“Well he’s not that stupid, he’s President of the USA, and he’s dominating—”
“If he doesn’t know what he’s re-tweeting—”
“Of course he doesn’t, of course he doesn’t research everything—”
“Well that means he is stupid.”
Trump might not have known who Britain First are, but he watched the videos and re-tweeted them anyway. When he was made aware of who they are, he did not apologise. He has either no comprehension of the consequences of his actions, or he doesn’t care. He made a virtue out of ignorance among his supporters, but that will not work with international relations. Bullies have never had to learn diplomacy; it’s one of the many reasons that they shouldn’t be in charge of things.
His support for far-right groups has never been a secret; to have him openly side with the hate organisation rather than the murdered politician shouldn’t be a surprise. But somehow he is still able to shock and disgust. There’s always lower to sink, I guess. There is always worse.
Will he face a citizen’s arrest when he comes over here? Well, February is still a few months away, and a lot could happen before then. If someone is going to arrest him though, let it be Brendan Cox. Let him do it in his wife’s name, and show the world that hatred and bigotry will never win.