The husband of former MP Jo Cox has urged politicians in the centre ground to re-seize patriotism from the extreme right.
Brendan Cox said he felt the EU referendum had resulted in “heightened tension” in the UK but that he did not believe the Leave vote was linked to the death of his wife in June.
Batley and Spen MP Mrs Cox died after being shot and stabbed outside her constituency office and Mr Cox said the killing had hit him and the couple’s two young children “harder than anything could ever hit you”.
Speaking to The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One, Mr Cox cited the rise of US presidential-hopeful Donald Trump and prominent far-right French politician Marine Le Pen as he suggested there had been an increased focus in recent months on “what divides us rather than what brings us together”.
He said: “There is something which is stirring that I think at the moment the political centre is too complacent about.”
He continued: “I think part of it is about re-seizing a patriotic narrative.
I try quite hard not to spend a lot of time dwelling on how she died.Brendan Cox
“Britain has a long tradition of tolerance, of diversity, of being an outward looking nation - it’s many of the things that made us a great country.
“But I feel we have ceded that narrative about patriotism, particularly to the extreme right, and I think we need to regain that narrative to define Britain in an inclusive way that brings it together rather than blames the migrant or the refugee or the Muslim for what might be going on in our country at any individual time.”
Mr Cox was asked if he thought his wife’s death was connected in any way to the EU referendum.
He said: “I think the referendum was clearly a moment of heightened tension and heightened debate and some of that sometimes got out of control but I think it has nothing to do with the 52 per cent of people that voted for Brexit.
“Jo was always very clear that it was a completely legitimate choice and there were good reasons for staying and there were good reasons for going.
“Her argument came down on the side of staying but that doesn’t mean that she couldn’t see the point of view of other people that wanted to leave.”
Mr Cox said he was “still in shock” at the death of his wife.
He said: “I have spent a lot of the last period really focusing on Jo and her life and I try quite hard not to spend a lot of time dwelling on how she died.
“Other than to say that it obviously came from nowhere and hit us harder than anything could ever hit you, as I say, I am trying to focus very hard on her life rather than her death.”
Former Coronation Street actress Tracy Brabin was elected Mrs Cox’s successor as Labour MP for Batley and Spen with an overwhelming 86 per cent of the vote at a by-election earlier this month.
Thomas Mair, 53, of Birstall, has been charged with 41-year-old Mrs Cox’s murder, possession of a firearm with intent and possession of an offensive weapon.
His is due to stand trial at London’s Old Bailey next month.