Minutes after news emerged that Jo Cox MP had been shot and stabbed by a man yesterday, there were reports that the gunman shouted “Britain first”.
With police investigating the suspect’s links to far-right groups, attention inevitably turned to the political party of that name.
At 5:09pm yesterday Britain First released a video statement from their leader Paul Golding. They strongly denied any links to the incident or the alleged attacker and have cast doubt on whether those words would refer to their organisation:
“At the moment we do not know what was said [during the attack]. Nothing’s been confirmed. No one’s been named. There’s been no eyewitness accounts published in the media. At the moment it is pure heresay … There’s no evidence that ‘Britain First’ was shouted.”
So what do we know seventeen hours later?
Several bystanders have repeated the claim to media outlets, the Guardian citing “at least two witnesses”, naming one of them:
Graeme Howard, 38, was among at least two witnesses who stated that Mair was shouting “Britain first” as he carried out the attack. The police later confirmed they were investigating the motive.
The Telegraph named another witness, gas engineer Clarke Rothwell, who said the same:
After he shot her the first time at pretty much point black range he shot her the second time whilst she was lying on the ground.
All the time as he was reloading he was stabbing her again and again on the ground in her body and shouting ‘Britain first! Britain first! Britain First’. He was shouting ‘Britain first!’ again and again as he stabbed her again and again.
While full details of this outrage are yet to emerge, a debate on the tone of political rhetoric in our country has already begun in earnest.