THE simplest of tributes are invariably the most profound and this was certainly the case when Jo Cox’s constituents paid their heartfelt respects to their MP. Lost for words, many mourners who made their way to the makeshift memorial in Birstall, close to the spot where the mother-of-two was shot and stabbed to death, simply said: “She was one of us.”
They might have only been five short words – but they still spoke volumes about a one-off politician who they also regarded as a friend after the Batley & Spen MP’s election in May last year. This is a grief-stricken community which has lost its champion and which will still be struggling to come to terms with the trauma of this tragedy long after the world’s media have moved on. Another floral tribute said simply: “You lived for others.”
What was remarkable about Ms Cox, an MP of just over a year, was that she was universally admired and respected by all because she was a conciliator who knew how to make a difference.
A desperately difficult day for the communities in the Spen Valley which the fearless and tireless 41-year-old was proud to call home, it was no less challenging for the country’s shellshocked political leaders as a stony-faced David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn and other senior politicians paid their respects in a rare – and heartfelt – show of unity before confirming that Parliament will be recalled on Monday for further tributes.
Stood in sombre silence at 1.48pm, precisely the moment Jo Cox died 24 hours previously, the Prime Minister described how he first encountered Jo Cox a decade ago in Darfur where the Yorkshirewoman was doing what she did best, saving the lives of refugees. Quite rightly, he highlighted how public service goes to the core of political life in a democracy which will not be cowed by the “well of hatred” that Mr Corbyn blamed for his colleague’s death.
As tributes pour in from around the world, time will tell whether this killing marks a sea-change in the terms of debate in this country when the EU referendum campaign resumes and whether voters become more respectful towards MPs. That the Tories will not field a candidate in the forthcoming by-election is unprecedented – they were not afforded this courtesy when Ian Gow, the last MP to be killed in office, was blown up by an IRA car bomb in 1990. Domestic politics has not been this muted since Labour leader John Smith’s death in 1994.
Yet it is also important, this gesture aside, that the causes championed by the late MP are not forgotten.As well as international aid, and the Syria refugee crisis, she was a powerful and passionate advocate for unglamorous causes such as the plight of those autism sufferers left with insufficient support by an unsympathetic care system or increased recognition of the social needs of the lonely and isolated.
As charity fundraising begins, the best tribute of all to Jo Cox is making sure that these issues, and many more, are not forgotten – or overlooked – because this force of nature is no longer here to speak up for the less fortunate.
It is imperative that her life’s work is not left unfinished as a result of this tragedy beyond tragedy.
Forgotten heroes: Somme centenary remembered
NOTwithstanding the senseless killing of Batley MP Jo Cox, the trials and tribulations of everyday life also need to be seen in the context of the momentous events a century ago when British soldiers were writing their last letters home to loved ones before the Battle of the Somme.
The first day of this battle – July 1, 1916 – remains the bloodiest in British military history as this country saw 57,000 young soldiers killed or injured, and it is regrettable that the calls by Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis for Parliament to hold its own tribute have still to be formally recognised.
Yet this country’s respect and gratitude for those who did not return home, admiration which has only grown with the passage of time, does not diminish the contribution made by all those whose efforts have been left unrecognised for too long. This includes the long-awaited unveiling of the Sheffield Women of Steel statue which marks the contribution of those who worked in the city’s steelworks during two world wars, daunting and onerous work.
And then there are those who manned Britain’s fleet of ambulance trains which transported soldiers injured on the Somme’s battlefields, and in its trenches, to hospital. The addition of a new carriage at York’s National Railway Museum shows the primitive conditions in which medical officers, orderlies and nurses worked – necessity meant these trains could be up to a third of a mile long.
It’s a haunting thought that Britain’s losses would have been even more grievous without such contributions and this country will always be in the debt of these people, heroes in their own right, who have been forgotten for too long.