When Parliament is recalled on Monday, party leaders should allow MPs a free vote on whether to suspend the EU Referendum as a mark of respect for Jo Cox and in response to the disgraceful, racist propaganda being circulated in the media.
The 2015 EU Referendum is the most momentous political decision to have been put before the British public in the past forty years. It has been called by the weakest government since 1974.
It is no secret that before the 2015 General Election, David Cameron promised a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU as a way of buying off UKIP voters: a promise he never wanted nor expected to have to keep, but was forced to, given the surprise result of the election.
The Conservative majority in the house of Commons presently stands at ten, the smallest government majority since 1974. Meanwhile the campaigns that resulted in the election of 28 Conservative MPs are under police investigation for electoral expenses fraud, which if proven could result in by-elections and perhaps even the fall of the government.
Does the present Conservative government have the moral legitimacy to call a referendum whose result will affect the future of every citizen of the UK for generations? Not to mention the 2.3 million citizens of other EU member states who are residents of the UK, who cannot vote in the referendum, and the 2.2 million UK citizens who are resident in other EU countries, many of whom cannot vote either. I would argue that it does not. This is not a question of mere expediency or party politics. It is a major constitutional issue.
The referendum has unleashed some of the ugliest political propaganda seen in Britain for decades. Tragically, this febrile atmosphere has led to the political assassination by a neo-Nazi terrorist of Jo Cox, an MP who had campaigned for Syrian refugees and in favour of the Remain option.
No matter whether Leave or Remain wins, the results of the referendum will be unavoidably tarnished by these tragic events.
In some other countries—such as Spain where I live—there is a legal requirement for a period of reflection just prior to an election, with no press or media coverage, to allow people to think calmly about the issues involved.
On Monday Parliament will be recalled for a special session to commemorate the life of Jo Cox. I believe that the party leaders should take this opportunity to allow a free vote on whether to suspend the EU referendum until such time as it can take place in an atmosphere of calm discussion of the complex issues involved, and not one of hatred, grief and shock.