MPs pay tribute to their murdered colleague, Jo Cox
On Thursday 20 June, a week before the EU Referendum, campaigning was in full swing – the usual cycle of attack, rebuttal and counter attack was being played out. Suddenly the political world shuddered to a halt as news emerged of the brutal murder of the Labour MP, Jo Cox, outside a constituency surgery in her Yorkshire seat.
The House of Commons had been in recess for the Referendum, and was recalled to pay tribute the following Monday. The chamber was packed but the seat normally occupied by Jo Cox was left empty, except for two roses – Labour’s red rose and the white rose and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us’.
David Cameron said the House could best honour her memory ‘by proving that the democracy and freedoms that Jo stood for are indeed unbreakable, by continuing to stand up for our constituents and by uniting against the hatred that killed her, today and forever more’.
Tributes were paid from all sides, in a short sitting, which was followed by a memorial service at St Margaret’s, the parish church of Parliament. The Labour MP, Rachel Reeves urged colleagues ‘to carry on Jo’s work and guard against hatred, intolerance and injustice and to serve others with dignity and love…. Batley and Spen will go on to elect a new MP, but no-one can replace a mother’.
Jo Cox had been a leading figure in several all-party groups – the Conservative former International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, served with her, as co-chair of the Friends of Syria, making common cause, as he put it, ‘with a crusty old Tory’.
The Labour MP, Stephen Kinnock, had shared an office with Jo Cox. He spoke first of the unspeakable personal suffering her murder had brought on her family. He said Jo Cox would have been outraged by a poster unveiled on the morning of her death by the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, showing a queue of migrants ‘A poster on the streets of Britain that demonised hundreds of desperate refugees… She would have responded with outrage and with a robust rejection of the calculated narrative of cynicism, division and despair – because Jo understood that rhetoric has its consequences. When insecurity, fear and anger are used to light a fuse, an explosion is inevitable’.