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Dublin: 21°C Sunday 14 August 2022

Boris Johnson criticised for using name of murdered MP Jo Cox to sell Brexit

Several MPs had said Johnson should moderate his language in memory of Cox.


BRITISH PRIME MINISTER claimed in parliament that the best way to “honour the memory” of murdered MP Jo Cox would be “to get Brexit done”. 

Johnson made the extraordinary claim this evening as a number of opposition MPs implored him to moderate his language so as not to ‘whip up’ threats and intimidation against members.

Labour MP Cox was murdered by a far-right extremist a week before the Brexit vote in 2016. She had been a remain supporter.

In the House of Commons this evening, Johnson used the terms ‘Surrender Act’ and ‘Capitulation Act’ when referring to the Benn Act, which seeks to force the government to seek a Brexit extension to avoid a no-deal.

Tracy Brabin, who succeeded Cox in her former constituency asked Johnson to be more careful in his use of language. 

“As the woman who has taken over a seat that was left by our dear friend Jo Cox, can I ask him, in all honesty, as a human being, please, please. Will he, going forward, moderate his language so that we will all feel secure when we’re going about our jobs?”

In response, Johnson said that the act he refers to “greatly enfeebles the government’s ability to negotiate”. 

“What I will say is that the best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox and indeed the best way to bring this country together would be, I think, to get Brexit done,” he added. 


Earlier Johnson was asked by another MP, Paula Sherriff, to refrain from using language which painted MPs “as traitors”.

We stand here Mr Speaker, under the shield of our departed friend, with many of us in this place subject to death threats and abuse every single day. And let me tell the Prime Minister that they often quote his words, Surrender Act, betrayal, traitor and I for one am sick of it.

“We must moderate our language and it has to come from the Prime Minister first, so I would be interested in hearing his opinion. He should be absolutely ashamed of himself,” Sheriff added.

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Johnson responded: “I think Mr Speaker, I have to say Mr Speaker I have never heard such humbug in my life.”

Johnson’s comments with respect to Cox have sparked anger from several opposition politicians.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said Johnson was an “utter disgrace” while SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said Johnson “is not fit to speak her name”. 

In response to the use of his wife’s name during the raucous debate, Jo Cox’s husband Brendan Cox called for more civility.

“Feel a bit sick at Jo’s name being used in this way. The best way to honour Jo is for all of us (no matter our views) to stand up for what we believe in, passionately and with determination. But never to demonise the other side and always hold onto what we have in common,” he tweeted.

“Just to reiterate this is about the role we all play. Just as ‘surrender’ & ‘betrayal’ is inflammatory language, so is ‘coup’ and ‘fascist’. Let’s all play our part in dialing it down.” 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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