For the 40th anniversary of The House magazine they asked a group of MPs to write about the Parliamentarians that they most admired over the last four decades. I wrote about my good friend Jo Cox:
I first met Jo Cox in Brussels. She was my mum’s researcher at the European parliament, and we became firm friends.
Twenty years later, we were both taking up our seats on the green benches. Like all newcomers, we were looking forward hugely to entering parliament – there is no greater honour or privilege. But there was also a real sense of trepidation – it can be a pretty intimidating place at times.
I therefore felt truly blessed to have had a friend like Jo from “the outside” coming in with me, and I think she felt the same. So when the chance to share an office came along we jumped at it.
And what a year it was that we shared together. Each day would start with Jo bursting into the office in her cycling gear, grabbing her clothes – which she had to keep in my cupboard – and shouting something over her shoulder about her latest project or campaign.
Not a day has passed since Jo was so brutally taken from us that I haven’t missed our chats. From the mundane to the most serious, Jo truly had an ability to get to the heart of an issue. She could lift your spirits no matter how bleak things seemed, because she always saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if it was a tiny glimmer, she would drive us towards it, raising the level of our ambition and never taking no for an answer.
Jo gave voice to the voiceless, and she spoke truth to power. Be it the lonely in Batley or the dispossessed in Syria, Jo would take up the cause fearlessly. She worked tirelessly across party lines because she was motivated by the idea that, as she put it in her maiden speech, we have “far more in common with each other than things that divide us”. And she truly lived her values through her work, every minute of every day, both in parliament and in the constituency she loved so much.
Jo truly believed that every person deserves to live a life filled with joy and dignity. She believed that who you are depends upon who we all are, and so we better work together when we work for each other, be that in parliament, in our communities, across the country or around the world.
She knew that in our complex, inter-dependent world compromise is a sign of strength, and she knew that we must confront our challenges with honesty, compassion and courage.
Jo Cox personified the pragmatic idealism that lies at the heart of all progressive politics.
And so, from the deep darkness of Jo’s death must come the shining light of her legacy. We must, together, build a better politics; a politics of hope not fear, of respect not hate, of unity not division, and of love not hate. A politics of purpose, unity compassion and solidarity. That was how Jo lived her life, and that was how she served the people of Batley and Spen.
Coming together to defeat the hatred that killed Jo will mean action, in both words and deeds. This has been a deeply divisive year, and it is up to every one of us in public life to do all that we can to heal the wounds, so that the country, and our communities, can reunite, and rebuild.
As we work towards those common goals, let us draw our inspiration from the life and times of Jo Cox, MP. Let’s live, and love, like Jo.