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World

Right-Wing Extremist Convicted Of Murdering U.K. Lawmaker Jo Cox

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Last June, a British politician named Jo Cox was murdered by one of her constituents. She was 41 years old, the mother of two young children. The man who killed her shouted, this is for Britain and Britain first. Now the killer, Thomas Mair, has been sentenced to life in prison. The judge said he was motivated by an admiration for Nazis and similar anti-democratic white supremacist creeds. The judge went on - our parents' generation made huge sacrifices to defeat those ideas and values in the Second World War and said, what you did betrays those sacrifices.

Caroline Flint is a member of Parliament who was friends with Jo Cox, and she joins us now. Welcome back to the program.

CAROLINE FLINT: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: This murder was an extraordinary event in the U.K. Do you think that it has changed British society?

FLINT: I think it's brought to everyone's attention the hatred that some individuals harbor, and they walk among us. And we just don't realize they're there. Thomas Mair had never committed a criminal offense before this. Those who knew him in the community had - many had no reason to think that he would destroy so many lives in the way he did.

But what we know now is that behind closed doors, he was on the internet, he was attracted to fascism. He saw himself as a white supremacist. He was online talking to other people around the world who shared his views. He researched how he would kill Jo, and then on that day when she was going about her business, he carried this terrible act out.

SHAPIRO: Do you believe that those white supremacist, neo-Nazi views are growing in the U.K.?

FLINT: Well, there's no doubt that there is concern. I understand from our security services around 1 in 10 of the referrals to them relate to far-right activities, and we can see around Europe the rise of more extremist far-right parties within democratic countries, whether that's in Scandinavia or whether that's in France.

But also I think, Ari, there is something about the internet, which can be a wonderful thing, but I am afraid that people like Thomas Mair operate online, communicating in others, reinforcing racist, fascist attitudes that create an echo chamber, but also an encouragement for this sort of act that Thomas Mair did, and that should worry us all.

SHAPIRO: Do you see any parallels with the American political moment that we're in right now?

FLINT: I think what's concerning is, you know, we have these people out right there, like Thomas Mair, who are full of hatred, looking to blame something or someone. And I have to say, what I saw of the American presidential election was actually the main protagonists involved in such vitriol and extreme language as well.

SHAPIRO: The main protagonist meaning Donald Trump.

FLINT: Yeah. I mean, in terms of the sort of both the campaigns, in terms of what they said about each other. You can't put that in a box at the end of a campaign and say, oh, that was just the campaign. Some of that will be heard by people who will not just be able to say that's just about political campaigning. They will take it to heart.

SHAPIRO: Just to conclude, how are you remembering your friend Jo Cox today?

FLINT: I think, Ari, that remembering Jo is best summed up by what her husband Brendan said.

He said, (reading) to the world, Jo was a member of Parliament, a campaigner, an activist and many other things. But first and foremost, she was a sister, a daughter, an auntie, a wife and above all, a mum to two young children who love her with all their being. All their lives they've been enveloped in her love, excited by her energy and inspired by her example. We try now not to focus on how unlucky we were to have her taken from us, but how lucky we were to have her in our lives for so long.

I think Brendan sums up for many people what they're thinking today after the verdict in the court.

SHAPIRO: Caroline Flint, British member of Parliament, thank you so much for joining us.

FLINT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.