The former chaplain to the House of Commons has said she believes the toxic discourse surrounding the “wretched topic” of Brexit contributed to the killing of MP Jo Cox.
Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who served as chaplain to the speaker of the house under John Bercow , said she had “always believed” the tone of debate in the country had led to Ms Cox’s death at the hands of a white supremacist in 2016 during the height of the referendum campaign.
Speaking on BBC’s Radio 4, the first black female bishop to be appointed in the Church of England said: “The discourse that we’ve had over the last three years has been pretty damaging. Damaging not only to parliamentarians, [but also] the wider community and society as a whole.
“It’s been very, very damaging and of course I have always believed that the kind of discourse that we had contributed to the death of Jo Cox.
“I really believed that then and I still believe it today.”
Ms Cox was shot down in the street by murderer Thomas Mair, who shouted ‘Britain first’ and ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’ as he fired on the 41-year-old representative for Batley and Spen in her constituency with a makeshift pistol.
He went on to stab the MP several times, as well as 79-year-old Bernard Kenny who stepped in to defend her, before leaving Ms Cox to die in the street
Ms Hudson-Wilkin, the newly-appointed Bishop of Dover, added that “the way that we related to one another over this wretched topic contributed” to her death.
“If you think about what the person was shouting when he inflicted harm on our dear sister Jo, you will know that the language that we were using with each other contributed to that.” she said.
“Parliamentarians may not have been shouting Britain First with a gun in hand or another kind of weapon, but we have to be careful about the way we use language.
“We might go and have a drink with each other afterwards or a cup of tea or whatever, somebody out there who is not all together ‘there’ may do something else.”
It comes after the prime minister’s rhetoric was highlighted in the House of Commons in September as having been referenced in death threats to MPs.
In a heated exchange in the chamber before the general election that saw him win a sizeable majority, Mr Johnson dismissed claims that his language had contributed to a climate of animosity as “humbug” after being told by former MP Paula Sheriff that threatening messages “often quote his words – ‘surrender act’, ‘betrayal,’ ‘traitor’”.
Mr Johnson was further criticised for saying the best way to honour the memory of Ms Cox, who was campaigning to keep Britain in the European Union, was to “get Brexit done”.
Blaming both the media and politicians for furthering negative discourse across the country, Ms Hudson Wilkin added the public could “begin to heal ourselves by making a commitment to ourselves and to each other to listen to one another and not just think that your view is the only view”.