- By Mark Simmons, Cord CEO

Among the flowers laid at Birstall’s J B Priestley statue in memory of Jo Cox MP this weekend was a note that read simply “love wins”.  People of all political persuasions, creeds and ethnic backgrounds have been rallying in her memory.  One photograph showed two people holding hands at the vigil held in the local parish church, each wearing the T-shirt of opposing sides in the EU referendum.

I was proud of these opposing sides for their unity and respect in suspending their campaigns, and disappointed that when campaigning resumed on Sunday the message had not changed.  One side was still playing on the fears of economic meltdown, the other on the fears of mass immigration.  I suspect neither is entirely accurate.  Yes, the economic impact of a weak sterling and the withdrawal from the common market would be very significant.  Household income would be constrained between higher costs and higher taxes, and as the leader of a charity reliant on donations from the public that concerns me.  And yes, the only way to avoid immigration from the EU is to leave not only the EU but the common market.  But we need migrant workers to help grow our economy, and they pay 5 times more in taxes than they claim in benefits and service provision.  So the arguments about economic risk are pitted against arguments about social risk, about the capacity of our public services and what it means to be British – which we seem to care about more than economic arguments can understand – and we revert to fear.

In this context, how does love win?  It is clear from all the tributes that in reacting to a hate crime such as the shooting of Jo Cox we want to counter that hatred with love.  But fear has little room for love, so there is a clear disconnect between this overwhelming desire to love and our current referendum campaign.  In his letter to the Corinthians, a passage so often read at weddings, St Paul gives us some clues.  Love embraces rather than withdraws.  It celebrates the “other” rather than denigrates it.  It strives for the common good over individual interest.

I only knew Jo in passing when she was campaigning for Darfur, but it is striking that when someone’s life is so tragically cut short we all feel a sense of loss, of what might have been – and in Jo’s case probably would have been.  Whatever the result, it would be a wonderful tribute to her if, in the referendum this week, love triumphs fear.