Hearing voices can be a symptom of mental illness. We don't yet know if the suspect in the Jo Cox murder was hearing hallucinatory voices but the media was quick to inform us that he had mental health problems; it took them longer to tell us about his links with neo-Nazi organisations.
Like everyone else in this country, he has, for the last couple of years, been hearing real voices that have been urging him to take the country back. Day after day, the message has been repeated that the country is at risk from something that is un-British and outwith our control.
People living with no job security, with the consequences of the bedroom tax, with uncertainty about population changes, with longer GP waiting lists, with growing income inequality and with a lack of trust in their elected representatives have been drawn to this message that totally demonises the European Union. The voices we have been hearing from certain tabloids and from various wings of the Leave campaign have not been designed to generate dialogue or policy discussion but to generate fear and paranoia. Mental illness itself does not makes people murder others but propaganda based on fear and paranoia may well tip an isolated person with particular mental health problems over the edge.
Although Jo Cox had only been in parliament for little over a year, I had already been impressed by her knowledge of the humanitarian problems arising from the war in Syria; she was a strong advocate of the needs of child refugees from that conflict . She came across as well-informed, compassionate and perceptive and while, like many women politicians, she was subjected to personal attacks on social media she behaved as though she was not cowed by them. She was loved and respected by the people of Batley and Spen, as well as by the Syrian rescue workers known as the White Helmets. When the referendum campaign got under way, she continued to be outspoken about the value of immigration to this country and was far more positive about it than many others in the really rather peely-wally Remain campaign.
She spelled out her key values in her maiden speech in the Commons: 'While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than what divides us.' These values were not just fine words but provided the foundation for the whole of her life in the public domain. They are also entirely at odds with the divisive language and imagery of the Leave referendum campaign.
It feels, with the publication of 'Breaking Point', the UKIP poster, and the murder of Jo Cox, as if hatred has become the new norm. I recall the way in which the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism, at both the political and cultural levels, turned the tide on racist hatred in the 1970s. We need to construct something fitting to our own times to give voice to our opposition to the messages of hatred. We could begin by asking UKIP to remove their 'Breaking Point' poster from public view. Incitement to hatred must not be allowed to become acceptable.