THEY mourn a mother, daughter and aunt snatched from them at such a tragically young age. They grieve an irreplaceable individual who inspired so many in her short life. Yet how typical of the family of Jo Cox that their first thoughts should be with others as the Batley & Spen MP’s cowardly killer Thomas Mair was convicted of murder.
“There may have been one act of extreme cowardice on that day, but there were many acts of bravery,” said Jo’s sister Kim Leadbetter as the family praised all those who risked their own lives as the defenceless MP, just five feet tall and born to serve, was subjected to a frenzied attack as she arrived at Birstall Library to meet voters a week before the EU referendum.
And then the compassionate words of Mrs Cox’s widower Brendan who said the response to his wife’s murder showed “Britain at its best” before saying that he felt “nothing but pity” for Mair and how a life “so devoid of love” and so “consumed with hatred” led the neo-Nazi to assassinating the 41-year-old, the country’s first female MP to be killed in the line of duty.
To be able to speak with such dignity at the end of the trial, an ordeal in which they had to listen to gruesome evidence about the painful final minutes of the Labour backbencher’s life because of the white supremacist Mair’s refusal to acknowledge his guilt, is to the family’s immense credit and a humbling tribute to the values championed by Mrs Cox as an aid worker, campaigner and Parliamentarian like no other.
Selfless to the end as she urged her two colleagues to put their safety first while her life ebbed away on the streets of the constituency that she was proud to call home, The Yorkshire Post echoes the family’s praise of West Yorkshire Police for their swift apprehension of Mair – the force’s response was exemplary. Likewise the legal system for its sensitive handling of this case. Too much of a coward to even enter a plea, Mr Justice Wilkie was perfectly right not to allow the unemployed gardener to speak at the end of these proceedings and cause additional grief to his victim’s family.
It can only be hoped that this random act does not deter MPs from meeting constituents in future, and vice-versa. This relationship is perhaps the bedrock of Britain’s democracy and one lone extremist must not jeopardise it.
Nothing will ever excuse Mair’s evil when he chose to kill his local MP because he disagreed with her views. Yet, while the safety of elected representatives must continue to be reviewed on a regular basis, the best tribute to Jo Cox is continuing to embrace her humanity, and champion the many good causes she supported, in pursuit of a more civilised world.
A cold-hearted attack intended to divide Mrs Cox’s constituency and country, how ironic that the outpouring of grief did the opposite and led to a repudiation of the hatred and bile that was in danger of supplanting civilised debate at a time when Britain needed more of the hope and optimism which this Yorkshirewoman offered in abundance. Long may this be so. As Brendan Cox said: “We try now to focus not on how unlucky we were to have had her taken from us. But how lucky we were to have her in our lives for so long.”
Chancellor buys time
BY raising borrowing, and by slowing down the eradication of Britain’s deficit as economic growth slows, Philip Hammond bought himself time – and little else – with an Autumn Statement intended to reassure.
The Chancellor could do little else. The country is still hamstrung by the indebtedness of the past while noble ambitions to balance the books by the end of the decade are no more as a consequence of the UK voting to leave the European Union on June 23.
Until more is known about the Government’s Brexit strategy, and its wider implications, Mr Hammond is at the mercy of these unforeseen events and many will be disappointed that he could not show greater ambition on corporation tax in order to reassure entrepreneurs and investors that the UK will still be the best place to do business after the country’s exit from the EU.
Let’s hope the Chancellor, and the Prime Minister for that matter, can be more effective than their predecessors when it comes to providing Yorkshire with the world-class transport infrastructure and skills base that is even more urgent.
Though many of the announcements had been trailed previously, Mr Hammond did, at the very least, publish two detailed strategies, one on skills and the other on the Northern Powerhouse, which will make a material difference to this region’s future prospects if they do come to fruition. Yet the Chancellor’s challenge now is delivering these promises. If not, the Government will find itself in an even bigger jam as it attempts to help all those families who are just about managing in these uncertain times.