Last Thursday, Jo Cox, Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen, was murdered on the streets of her constituency.
A week on, the news of Jo’s death is still scarcely comprehensible to her many friends and colleagues in and out of Parliament. Jo had been an international aid worker and had worked for Oxfam before entering Parliament. I am angry at the sick and twisted irony that Jo had spent much of her life travelling to very dangerous parts of the world, split apart by civil war and tension, which don’t enjoy the freedoms and democracy that we in Britain have, and yet her life was ended in the most brutal of ways on the streets of Britain as she fulfilled the responsibilities of a representative in what is supposed to be the country of the cradle of modern parliamentary democracy.
At a time when it is difficult to feel bright and optimistic about anything, given Jo’s senseless murder, some bright spots emerge. In what must have been a terrifying and bewildering experience for eye witnesses, Bernard Kenny, a 77 year old former miner went to the aid of Jo and was stabbed. He is the epitome of a hero and he demonstrates the very best of British values. There is a campaign to award Mr Kenny the George Cross in recognition of his bravery, and I hope that this campaign succeeds.
Another person who stands out in the aftermath of this tragedy is Jo’s husband, Brendan. He has conducted himself with grace and dignity in the week since his wife’s murder. It is clear to anybody who has watched his moving interview on TV this week that the couple loved each other very much. The pain of grief and anguish on Brendan’s face as he described his feelings was too much to bear. Equally, the moving tribute given by Jo’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, who described Jo in such lovely terms, saying:
“From a very young age, all Jo ever wanted was for everyone to be happy. We were brought up to see the best in everything and everyone…She will live on through Brendan, through us and through her truly wonderful children who will always know what an utterly amazing woman their mother was.”
In all of this, that is what I find most tragic. Jo was rightly described as lovely, as wanting to care for others, of being a loving daughter, sister and wife. But her murder has robbed two children, aged five and three, of their mother. They will never be allowed to forget her, and they will be told endlessly how much she loved them, but at their ages it is likely they will never have no direct recollections of times with Jo as their mother. That is the most heartbreaking thing of all.
On Monday, the House of Commons was recalled to allow parliamentarians to pay tribute to Jo. Brendan and their children were in the public gallery to hear the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and other MPs recall how Jo was funny, talented, passionate and had both achieved so much and should have had years in front of her to achieve much more. My own memories of Jo was just simply how nice she was – when I met her, she always asked about me and my family and what I was doing rather than talk about herself, a rare thing indeed in Westminster. We’ve lost a formidable talent with so much more to offer in the most brutal of ways. Rest in peace Jo.