Jo Cox Foundation to tackle growing intimidation in UK politics

The UK is debating what constitutes intimidation in the aftermath of the "milkshake gate"

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage after being hit with a milkshake during a campaign walkabout for the upcoming European elections in Newcastle, England, Monday May 20, 2019. (Tom Wilkinson/PA via AP)
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The Jo Cox Foundation, established in memory of the British politician assassinated in 2016 by a neo-Nazi, will work with political parties on a joint approach to tackling intimidation in politics, the Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life said on Tuesday.

The announcement comes as the UK debates what constitutes intimidation after a critic threw a milkshake at the leader of the Brexit Party Nigel Farage on Monday.

The act prompted some scorn for Mr Farage’s reaction, as well as sympathy from those who see the “milkshake gate”, as it was dubbed, as a harbinger of more violent acts to come.

Against this backdrop, Mr Evans announced “that The Jo Cox Foundation has undertaken to act as independent support to help make further progress towards a common approach to tackle intimidation and abuse during election campaigns.”

“It is important to democracy that individuals standing for public office or campaigning are able to so without fear of intimidation,” he said.

Catherine Anderson, chief executive of The Jo Cox Foundation, said that “Jo’s murder in 2016 is a constant reminder to us that the threat of violence and intimidation towards MPs, candidates or anybody else in public life can never be acceptable. We all value vigorous political debate and freedom of speech but that should not extend to abusive behaviour designed to intimidate and silence people.”

Ms Anderson said intimidation “threatens our democracy itself.”

Jo Cox died after being shot and stabbed multiple times by 52-year-old Thomas Alexander Mair, who shouted “Britain first” as he attacked the member of parliament.

The milkshake incident came after Mr Farage had given a speech in Newcastle ahead of the European elections. A visibly angry Mr Farage was hurried to his car. He later accused remain supporter of refusing to accept democratic outcomes and promised to press charges against the alleged assailant.

Paul Crowther, 32, of Throckley, Newcastle, has been charged with common assault and criminal damage relating to Mr Farage's microphones.

The politician accused his aggressor of having been radicalised. “Sadly some remainers have become radicalised, to the extent that normal campaigning is becoming impossible,” he wrote on Twitter. “For a civilised democracy to work you need the losers consent, politicians not accepting the referendum result have led us to this.”