About Ingeborg van Teeseling and Jacqueline de Gier

Ingeborg van Teeseling emigrated from Holland ten years ago and being warned by the Immigration Department against doing her job as a journalist, she became a historian instead. Jacqueline de Gier is a journalist and author with an allergy for pot-noodle journalism. She has written extensively on Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.

The murder of Jo Cox, the end of British Values

Approx Reading Time-11The personal cost of the Brexit has never been more obvious, as the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox also thinned the British values that we fought to build, and held so dear.



June 16

Dear Ingeborg,

So, that is settled. Now we know what the score is. The great exposure is naked and white. At least those Britons who blame foreigners for all the rot no longer have to pretend, and they can stop the false tears about “British values.”

Jo Cox, a 41-year-old Labour MP, to me, to Ridha, to my sons, to my family and friends, embodied British Values. And she did for the people in her constituency, as well as for Syrian refugees. She was that rare breed of a politician who did not live in a bubble, but was out there. She was an aid worker in Darfur in Southern Sudan and Syria. She kept putting refugees on the map as people. Not a collection of numbers to wave around.

If the tone before this act was ugly, it can only be described as sick. Waves of panic and fear about deportations of foreigners en masse, losing their homes, and the lives they had made. Britain is sick, and it hurts me to say that. For this is my home too. It is that of my family.

You have urged me a number of times to write about the Huguenots. I will do, but not today. But I will say one thing. I grew up, groomed really, within a tradition, which formed the foundation for a series of treaties and laws on toleration, ending religious persecution. One of which was the English Act of Tolerance in 1688. It also underwrites the ethos of the Bill of Rights and the American Constitution. The historian Simon Schama recently called it ‘a community of ideals’. That was and remains the underpinning belief we, as a family, share.

It is what Jo Cox believed in, and fought for in parliament as a young MP. She kept saying there is more that unites us than divides us. And for that, she was murdered. Shot in the head and stabbed for good measure, while she lay bleeding in the street. The man who killed her shouted “Britain First.”

To those pensioners on their mobility scooters, they can pause their self-indulgent moaning. It is because true British Values, fought for by people like Jo, keep you on those damn, irritating things. Shame on you. To those who think it is funny to make jokes about people who drown in the Mediterranean fleeing persecution and war, and wash up on the holiday beaches, take a long look at the new poster courtesy of Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party. It was unveiled one hour before Jo was murdered. It shows a long line of refugees, behind a fence. The slogan:

breaking point

If this is all in aid of We want our country back.” If this is indeed what is left of what we value as Brits, then I want no part in it.

And I’m not alone.

Also on The Big Smoke

June 17

Dear Jacqueline,

What news to wake up to! It took me straight back to the 2002 murder of Pim Fortuyn. Different politician, of course, as far right and as populist and Other-hating as you could get. So basically the opposite of Jo Cox. But for me, it falls in the same category. The functionaries of democracy should be sacrosanct. They keep the wheels of the system going so we don’t have to, and we should be grateful for that. Besides, I think killing somebody because her political opinion is different from yours is completely ridiculous, apart from hateful and morally wrong. If you don’t agree, you argue it out.

That is how it works in a democracy, doesn’t it?

I remember being about 200 meters from the cark park where Fortuyn was shot. I was teaching a class of young diplomats deal with the media and practice their own writing and interviewing skills. Halfway through, the class was interrupted by a police officer, who told us that there was a guy with a gun on the loose and that we could not leave the room under any circumstances. They caught him quickly afterwards, but it was a nervous half hour.

What was interesting, though, was the response of most of the diplomats. They reacted the same as I’ve seen journalists like us do: run towards instead of away. Normal people get the hell out when it starts to become dangerous. Journalists run the other way, because that is where the story is. Diplomats do that too. Not because of a story, but because it is their job to be responsible for the public and the ones who work for them. They got on their phones straight away and started organising the protection of other politicians, their families, their staff. In front of my eyes, a whole network was built and people slotted into jobs that needed doing. Writing little press releases, finding safe houses, making sure their own Minister was unharmed and well. They took no time to be shocked, they got to work. My respect and admiration for them grew by the minute, and I can only imagine that this same stuff is going on in Britain, and all over the world, right now.

When Pim Fortuyn was shot, it was the first political murder in The Netherlands since 1672. For the British it hasn’t happened since the last war in Ireland. Is it going to be the norm? Are we at the start of a new cultural war, between the populace and politicians? What on earth is going on? And what about some human decency, some understanding that the other person is just you in different clothes?

I wish there was something we could do.


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