Leader: Head must rule heart after tragic death of MP

Tributes for Jo Cox at Parliament Square in Westminster. Picture: Ben Stansall/Getty

Tributes for Jo Cox at Parliament Square in Westminster. Picture: Ben Stansall/Getty

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At this stage of a political campaign, with polling day looming, it is regular practice for a newspaper to recap on the merits and flaws of the arguments that have been put forward, and reach a conclusion on the way ahead.

Today, we are in an unprecedented situation. The shocking killing of a member of parliament casts a long shadow over the political landscape, and even though the poll is just four days away, there is currently little appetite to engage with a process that is fundamental to the UK’s future.

It is inevitable that by Wednesday, minds will focus again on the question that we are to answer the following day, but until then the debate is likely to be muted.

It will be argued that this is no bad thing. The standard of political discourse – it’s generous to describe it as such – has been embarrassingly crude, and a further diet of what has been served up by both sides, up until the death of Jo Cox, would be worthless.

On the other hand, we should not forget that Cox stood for democracy, and she campaigned passionately for her point of view in this referendum. It is fundamentally wrong that the actions of one person should silence the articulate arguments that have been made by Cox, and by her opponents.

So we must hope that when official campaigning resumes, that short time is used to concentrate on the key issues at the heart of the remain or leave question – the economy, security, immigration, sovereignty – and each side talks about what its vision can offer us, rather than gets caught up once again in what their opponents will take away from us.

The polls indicate that, despite a recent lead for Brexit, neither side made a convincing argument before Thursday’s tragic events. They now have a responsibility to ensure debate does not become dominated by the motivation driving Cox’s killer.

As appalling as last week’s events were, it would be a mistake to decide our political future by considering anything other than the issues which put this referendum in front of us in the first place.

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