THE Bishop of Leeds has appealed to politicians on all sides of the Brexit name to stop “trading” the name of Jo Cox – the murdered Batley & Spen MP – in the Brexit debate.
The Right Reverend Nick Baines also says Boris Johnson has a “particular and weighty responsibility” after he clashed with Labour MPs, including Dewsbury’s Paula Sherriff, over the tone of his language during toxic exchanges in the House of Commons last week.
“I am the bishop of a diocese in which Jo Cox is remembered with massive affection and in which there is great sensitivity to utilisation of her for political purposes. Her family are not just names to be traded,” he wrote in a blog.
“Words are not neutral – they can become weapons. Words in the mouth of leaders can shape the language and behaviour of all sorts of people, and not always positively. The challenge of leadership is to lead, to behave like the adult in the room, to see the big picture, to hold the long-term perspective, and not to lose sight of the key issue.
“The Prime Minister has a particular and weighty responsibility in our current crisis to lead by example. A fundamental element of strong leadership, rooted in character, is to demonstrate humility.
“The language he is using is destructive and has caused distress. An apology would be in order. More importantly, he needs to lead a recalibration of language, mood and relationship. What we are witnessing currently is the further corruption of our public discourse and the norms of democratic debate.”
The clergyman, a regular contributor to The Yorkshire Post on this subject, added; “A colleague said to me this morning that we are in urgent need of recovering the three Rs: respect, responsibility and restraint.
“Respect for people (opponents as well as friends), the law and language; taking responsibility for our own language and behaviour as well as the common good; restraint even when provoked.
“It is incumbent on those who lead to tell the truth, use language wisely (with a view to consequences) and behave with responsibility and respect.”