Bercow: 'We've not tackled toxic politics - things haven't improved since Jo Cox's death'

17 October 2021, 11:00

'Element of hatred' in UK politics, says Bercow

By Will Taylor

Attempts to make politics less toxic have barely improved things since Jo Cox was murdered, John Bercow has told LBC.

The former Speaker of the House of Commons was in the chair when the Batley and Spen MP was killed during the heated 2016 Brexit campaign.

Her death has been compared to Sir David Amess's killing on Friday, when he was fatally stabbed while holding one of his regular constituency meetings.

Both tragedies have led to reflections on the rhetoric used about, and between, MPs.

Many people were inspired by Ms Cox and used a motto based on a line from her maiden speech to Parliament: "We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us."

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Counter terror police have established a "possible" link to Islamist extremism in Sir David's case.

But the killing has still caused people to consider how they talk about elected representatives, and called into question how well protected they are from those who would attack them.

Asked on LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday if the situation had improved since Ms Cox was murdered, Mr Bercow said: "Only in small part. I think the Jo Cox Foundation has done outstanding work and it has made a difference on an incremental basis.

"What I mean by that is that you can't tackle this all in one go, or transform the situation by some single initiative or by one organisation taking steps.

"I think that notion of "more in common", the need to try to unite rather than divide, has been a significantly greater theme thanks to Jo's family and her friends and supporters and the people who she inspired.

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"But if you ask me overall do I think we've tackled that toxicity in politics, the honest answer is that I don't think we have.

"I entirely agree with my successor (Sir Lindsay Hoyle) that we've got to try to get to a point at which people can accept that they can differ from each other, that that shouldn't mean that there has to be an element of hatred in the equation.

"That said, there will always be very, very, very bad people, with ill motives and brutal instincts and there's no complete protection or safeguard against that.

"Achieving change, achieving a kinder, gentler politics is not a matter of a single initiative or a rhetorical declaration but rather of a continuous process."