Last May Jo Cox and I were elected to Parliament. She has served just a year and was murdered last week in her constituency. Jo and I wrote an article together, voted together, had offices just a few doors along from each other in Westminster and organised an event together, held just days before she was killed.
She worked on the issues she cared about, from her time before Parliament at Oxfam and beyond, tackling child poverty, better offering help to those in need and fleeing persecution. She was a principled, decent MP who worked hard for her constituents in Batley and Spen. She grew up in Batley and the town has lost a daughter – as Parliament has lost a genuinely excellent Member. Her contribution has been cut short and we will never know what she may have been capable of achieving with more time.
But it is with her family that my thoughts and prayers reside. She had two young children and a husband. They are missing their mother and wife. No one should lose a family member simply because they were doing their job. She loved her role and was proud to serve her community. She was courageous and, despite threats after her vote to intervene in Syria, was determined to remain accessible to her constituents. No MP should do anything different and we cannot allow Jo’s loss to end the willingness to engage. I hold surgery meetings across the constituency: from Canada Water library to the Blackfriars Settlement; from the Old Kent Road Somali mosque to the Haddon Hall Baptist church; and from St Mungos to ASDA. My accessibility to you will not be diminished in response to the vile assault on my friend.
That her life, which was defined by hope, love and warmth, could be ended so brutally, coldly and in an act of utter hate is despicable. The motive of her killer is unclear but witness accounts suggest her murderer yelled ‘Britain First’ as he shot and stabbed Jo.
Jo’s murder suggests that, for some, the EU referendum debate has become so simplistic that it resembles the Nazi scapegoating campaigns of the 1930s. That is unacceptable. The generations that fought the Nazis would, I think, be ashamed at that level of debate.
Whatever the motive behind her murder, the outcome is the tragic loss of a wonderful MP at the hands of a man who set out determined to silence a voice of hope and love. Our response must be to shut down those who peddle lies and myths to try and justify hatred. No longer can people pretending to represent British values expect us to swallow their vile brand of malice. We must unite and ensure Jo’s principles of respect, hope and love shine through.