THE district’s two Labour MPs have attacked Boris Johnson after the Prime Minister claimed in a heated Commons debate that the best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox “would be to get Brexit done”.
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff referenced murdered Batley & Spen MP Mrs Cox as she pleaded with Mr Johnson to stop using “dangerous” words like “surrender” in his public speaking.
Mrs Cox, 41, was killed in June 2016 by Thomas Mair in Birstall, a week before the Brexit referendum.
Miss Sherriff said during a highly-charged debate as Parliament resumed on Wednesday that the prime minister had “continually used pejorative language to describe an Act of Parliament passed by this house”.
Pointing to a plaque in the chamber commemorating Mrs Cox, Miss Sherriff said: “We should not resort to using offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language for legislation that we do not like, and we stand here under the shield of our departed friend with many of us in this place subject to death threats and abuse every single day.
“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.” She added: “He should be absolutely ashamed of himself.” Mr Johnson said he had “never heard such humbug in all my life”.
Mrs Cox’s successor Tracy Brabin MP also urged Mr Johnson to moderate his language “so that we will all feel secure when we’re going about our jobs”.
Mr Johnson said 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”.
Mrs Cox was a prominent Remain campaigner and his remark drew gasps of astonishment in the chamber. Some MPs left the Commons in protest.
Following the debate Ms Brabin said: “Last night (Wednesday) was possibly the worst day in Parliament. The language used by Boris Johnson was not casual and he did not misspeak, it was calculated to whip up division in the country to get this no-deal Brexit through.
“We should be working night and day to unite the country and his insulting response to Paula Sherriff’s plea to dial down the rhetoric, that it was ‘humbug’, was deeply shocking.
“There were audible gasps in the Chamber when the Prime Minister suggested that the best thing to honour Jo Cox’s memory was to ‘get Brexit done’, when we all know she was a passionate campaigner for Remain.
“This morning (Thursday), Mr Speaker announced a cross-party Speaker’s Committee that will look into behaviour and language in the House of Commons. This could not have come soon enough.”
This week also marks the third anniversary of the founding of the Jo Cox Foundation.
The prime minister was asked to clarify his remarks on Mrs Cox and said: “I can, I think, explain exactly what I mean because I believe that the continuing failure to deliver on the mandate of the people greatly exacerbated feelings and the best way to reduce that tension is, as I say, to get it done and then the whole country can move on.’’