The widower of the murdered MP Jo Cox encouraged attendees to “out-organise” far right haters during a gritty speech.
“We are meeting at a time of crisis,” he began. “There’s no point in wishing away the gravity of that crisis or imagining it is going to be short-lived, because it’s not.”
Brendan Cox was presenting The Jo Cox Memorial Award in honour of his late wife. The honour is presented to individuals who have put themselves at considerable risk by trying to protect the human rights of others targeted because of their identity.
“We’ve been complacent, we’ve buried our heads in the sand, we’ve imagined the end of history, where the structures we have relied on have been collapsing around us,” he continued.
“The hatred that is taking more of the public discourse isn’t an accident – it’s happening because of our politics, it’s happening because of where we are in our country at the moment.”
In a thinly veiled attack on the US president, he thanked Donald Trump for highlighting the “cancer within our own societies, how fundamentally something has gone wrong”, and argued the challenges facing communities would increase in the coming decades.
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“The fact is this isn’t a short-term threat. We are living through a perfect storm of insecurities – economic, physical and cultural – the thing that Trump tapped into incredibly powerfully,” he said.
However, he reminded the room that those propagating hatred were “not the majority”.
“We often talk about polarisation, but the reality is more nuanced. Most people are in the middle. Yes, they are concerned about immigration, but they are not haters,” he said. His speech concluded with a battle cry to those gathered. “What’s happened is that the far right haters have become better organised, they’ve out-organised us, on the street, politically, on social media and elsewhere. Our job is to out-organise them.”