Betty Boothroyd: We must conquer ‘hatred’ in memory of Jo Cox

Floral tributes continue to grow in Birstall.
Floral tributes continue to grow in Birstall.
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BETTY BOOTHROYD has implored the county to conquer the “hatred” that killed Yorkshire MP Jo Cox “for the sake of her motherless children and generations yet to come”.

The impassioned plea by the former Speaker of the House of Commons coincides with Parliament’s emergency recall so politicians can pay their own tributes to the mother-of-two who died after being shot and stabbed outside a constituency surgery in Birstall last Thursday.

YP Letters: Betty Boothroyd – why we must overcome the hatred that killed Jo Cox

As a sea of flowers continues to grow, and a charity appeal set up in memory of the Batley & Spen MP passed the £740,000 milestone less than 48 hours after its launch, Dewsbury-born Baroness Boothroyd’s warning about polarising divisions in society came after the backbencher’s grief-stricken family paid an emotional visit to Birstall to thank mourners personally and appeal to them “to focus on that which unites us and not which divides us”.

Describing Mrs Cox as “a rising star”, Britain’s only female Speaker says “we are all the poorer” for the senseless killing of a Parliamentarian who came to represent the best of politics, and humanity, in 13 short months at Westminster.

Baroness Boothroyd, 86, told The Yorkshire Post that she had become aware of this straight-talking Yorkshirewoman, previously a renowned aid campaigner, when the scale of the Syria refugee crisis was emerging – and was then particularly struck by how the 41-year-old spoke in Parliament.

“She championed humanitarian causes that are dear to my own heart. So I pay tribute to her with pride in her achievements, great sadness at her cruel and untimely death and hope that her example will inspire a reawakening of the values our country has always stood for, and which are now at risk,” writes the peer in today’s edition.

“When she was elected to represent Batley & Spen, she declared “I’ve got the job I’ve always dreamed of” – a feeling many new MPs have, and just how I felt 43 years ago. Her self-confidence was daunting, her enthusiasm was infectious. She said at he outset that she was not going to be intimidated by the House of Commons, a bold approach to a House that is heavily male-orientated. Nor was she.”

Baroness Boothroyd noted how Mrs Cox broke convention and asked probing questions in the Commons on the provision and funding of mental health services before her memorable maiden speech in which she praised the diversity of West Yorkshire.

“Her first words left the House in no doubt about her qualities and the passion of her beliefs,” added the peer. “She made the point that the numbers of vulnerable people who need mental health care were expected to soar and our mental health care services will have to meet an increasing demand. She was concerned about it and expected Parliament to be concerned too.

“Her devotion to public service stemmed from her beliefs in the dignity of mankind. Politics was not a game for her in one-upmanship.”

This personal and heartfelt tribute comes amid much soul-searching about the tone of political debate, not least over the policy issues which go to the heart the European Union referendum this Thursday.

It followed two church services in Birstall in remembrance of the MP, with the Reverend Paul Knight telling the congregation at St Peter’s Church that Mrs Cox was “a 21st century Good Samaritan” who “grew into a fervent advocate for the poor and oppressed”.

Acknowledging the bravery of pensioner Bernard Kenny, 77, who remains in hospital after he was injured coming to the defenceless politician’s aid, the clergyman added: “There is much wickedness in our world. But thank God there is so much goodness - goodness that does not recognise colour, not nationality.”

Support grows for #MoreInCommon campaign

MORE than £740,000 has now been donated to three charities nominated by Jo Cox’s husband Brendan and the dead MP’s family.

Jo Cox’s Funding is supporting The Royal Voluntary Service which is combating loneliness in Batley & Spen; Hope not Hate, an anti-extremism charity; and The White Helmets, a search and rescue charity working in Syria.

Events around the world will take place on Wednesday – what would have been the politician’s 42nd birthday – as support for the #MoreInCommon campaign grows.