The husband of Jo Cox has said he believes his wife was killed for her “very strong political views”.

In an emotional interview, Brendan Cox spoke of his wife’s concern about the “tribal” direction politics was taking before she was shot and stabbed in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

He said: “She was a politician and she had very strong political views and I believe she was killed because of those views. I think she died because of them, and she would want to stand up for those in death as much as she did in life.”

Mrs Cox, a fervent supporter of the campaign for Britain to remain in the European Union, was killed less than seven days before the country goes to the polls in the referendum.

Her death saw campaigning suspended by both sides and sparked a debate about how politics is conducted in the UK.

Mr Cox said: “I think she was very worried that the language was coarsening, that people were being driven to take more extreme positions, that people didn’t work with each other as individuals and on issues, it was all much too tribal.

“She was particularly worried about the direction of politics at the moment, particularly around creating division and playing on people’s worst fears rather than their best instincts.”

Mr Cox also thanked the public for their “incredible” support and said the “off the scale” reaction had been a great comfort to the couple’s two young children.

Vigils have been held around the UK, colleagues have paid tearful tributes in the House of Commons and more than £1m has been raised by a charity appeal set up in memory of the former aid worker.

Mr Cox said: “What the public support and outpouring of love does is it helps the children see that what they’re feeling, other people are feeling – that the grief they are feeling isn’t abnormal.

“That they feel it more acutely, more painfully and more personally but that actually their mother was someone who was loved by lots of people and therefore it’s OK for them to be upset and it’s OK for them to cry and to be sad about it.”

Mrs Cox’s friends and family will continue to fight for the causes she believed in, he said.

He said: “I don’t want people ascribing views to her that she didn’t have, but I certainly want to continue to fight for the legacy and for the politics and the views that she espoused.

“They were what she was, she died for them and we definitely want to make sure we continue to fight for them.”