Only two British newspapers failed to feature a picture of Jo Cox on their front pages today, as the terrorist killer of the MP was jailed: the Financial Times and the Daily Mail.
The editorial judgment is unsurprising, as far as the Financial Times is concerned. The neo-Nazi loner Thomas Mair was found guilty of murdering Cox on the same day as the first autumn statement from the chancellor, Philip Hammond. And for a financial newspaper that considers itself more global than British, this meant the news led its front-page briefing column instead.
But for Britain’s biggest-selling mid-market tabloid, the Daily Mail, not to refer to Cox and her killer until page 30 was not only surprising but a shock.
Nearly all other papers put a smiling picture of the Labour MP and mother of two young children on their front page on the day her killer received a full life sentence – even if they led their news coverage on the economy.
So what happened at the Mail? And what does it say about that paper’s view of – and impact on – the UK’s political life that the verdict on the first murder of a sitting MP for 26 years can be relegated so far inside its pages?
The story about Mair’s sentence came after a full 17 pages welcoming the verdict of an “upbeat chancellor” confounding those dastardly “remain doom-mongers”. In the pages that followed this autumn statement coverage came news reports about “laughing migrants”, photos of a bikini-clad model taking a shower and the headline news that Santa is not real. They also featured a full-page column asking why leftwing comics laugh at the Queen.
When today’s Mail finally gets to the verdict on Mair, the main headline points out that he “wanted to kill his own mother”, while the secondary story asks: “Did neo-Nazi murder Jo over fear he’d lose council house he grew up in?”
Most newspapers (certainly not just the Guardian) cited the judge’s own verdict that Mair killed her to advance his violent white supremacist ideology rather than because he “suspected the MP might not have helped him” to fight the council’s bid to move him.
The introduction to the Mail piece – which states that Mair “may have murdered MP Jo Cox because he feared losing his home of 40 years to an immigrant family” – prompted law professor James Chalmers to tweet “turns out there really is nothing the Daily Mail can’t blame on immigrants”.
The evidence of his fear of losing his council house comes from interviews with Mair’s neighbours and, largely, his stepfather’s half-sister. There is, however, no mention of how close the relationship was between a white supremacist and the family of his black stepfather.