THE SISTER of murdered Yorkshire MP Jo Cox has unveiled plans to “build bridges” across communities this summer, as she takes on a bigger role within the foundation set up in her memory.
Last June millions of people across the country took part in the first Great Get Together, which took place on the first anniversary of Mrs Cox’s death and saw street parties and community events take place, including dozens across the region.
This year, the celebration will move from the date of her death to the weekend of June 22 to 24, when Mrs Cox would have celebrated her 44th birthday, her sister Kim Leadbeater announced.
The theme is ‘building bridges’ - an effort to show that Mrs Cox was right in her maiden speech to Parliament when she said we have “more in common” than that which divides us.
Ms Leadbeater, who has been working with the Jo Cox Foundation across West Yorkshire for the last 18 months, is now taking on a nationwide role within the organisation, following the resignation of Mrs Cox’s husband Brendan Cox last month amid allegations of sexual assault.
Ms Leadbeater said: “I owe it to my sister to make sure Jo’s legacy goes on and that her death was not in vain.
“Our country is amazing but it can feel divided at times, and there are those who want to exploit those divisions, which is why we as Jo’s family are so determined to take the work of the Foundation forward.”
Mr Cox stepped down after it emerged that he was reported to police in the US in 2015 for “inappropriate touching” during a trip to Harvard University while working for charity Save the Children.
He denied assaulting the woman, but admitted to “inappropriate behaviour” and apologised for the “hurt and offence” caused by his past behaviour.
Ms Leadbeater told The Yorkshire Post that Mr Cox’s resignation meant it “feels like it’s very much the right time for me to step in.”
She said: “Brendan has done the right thing by resigning, he’s admitted to mistakes he’s made.
“We will support him as the father of two children who are growing up without a mum.
“I am very clear about that but equally I am very clear about the fact that I don’t condone inappropriate behaviour of any nature.”
The Great Get Together was founded by the family and friends of Mrs Cox in close partnership with the Jo Cox Foundation.
Of those who took part last year, 59 per cent of people said that until that weekend they didn’t know their neighbours, and 83 per cent of people who took part met someone new. In total, 78 per cent of people said they felt more hopeful about Britain after the weekend.
The event aims to connect people across lines of difference to build communities that are closer, more inclusive and more resilient to the threat of division.
Last year’s events in Yorkshire included a family event at Brodsworth Hall in Doncaster, a street party in Burley, Leeds, celebrations in Mrs Cox’s constituency in Batley and Heckmondwike and a get-together in Rotherham’s Clifton Park.
Ms Leadbeater added: “Last year’s Great Get Together was a huge success in bringing people together. But we know there is more to do.
“My sister Jo inspired so many when she said we had more in common than things that divide us.
“Of course, we might look different, sound different, live in different areas or support different football teams. But it’s the fact that we can put all of those differences aside and pull together that makes our country special.
“Let’s continue to work together to build bridges not walls.”
Batley and Spen MP Mrs Cox was shot and stabbed in the centre of Birstall on June 16 two years ago.
Right-wing extremist Thomas Mair was jailed for life for her murder in November 2016.
What is the Jo Cox Foundation?
The Jo Cox Foundation was established in September 2016 to channel the energy and determination generated by the MP’s life and murder into practical efforts to advance the causes she championed.
It works with individuals and organisations that share the commitment to a fairer, kinder and more tolerant world, that Mrs Cox embodied in her work and campaigning - and administers funds that were donated in her memory above the £1.5m that was donated to three causes championed by the MP in the weeks after her death.
It partnered with the Great Get Together last year.
Events have already been announced in Yorkshire. Find out more at www.greatgettogether.org.