IN the months before her death, murdered Yorkshire MP Jo Cox was using her “unstoppable energy” to bring together politicians, charities and policy makers to end an issue close to her heart - loneliness.
In February, on the second anniversary of The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic, we revealed how the passionate campaigner was setting up a national cross-party commission, launched to “blow the lid” off the crisis of loneliness - an issue she felt went beyond party politics.
Her passion for the issue was infectious. It moved us all. We and all her colleagues in Westminster must continue her great work. She would have wanted that - for us all to continue and to put an end to loneliness.Marcus Rand, director of the Campaign to End Loneliness
Representatives from The Yorkshire Post would join Mrs Cox on the commission, which aimed to give greater prominence to the lonely and socially isolated.
Speaking in February, she told The Yorkshire Post: “The scale of this crisis shocks me to the core. Every time I meet someone who is lonely, or a volunteer or charity working with people who are isolated, the scale of the challenge really blows me away. It’s also clear that loneliness is not just an issue for older people, but for so many in our communities.
“This issue goes beyond politics. It is something that politicians of all parties can unite around.
“We all care about the communities we represent, and we are all moved when we hear these stories. We need to find a way to pull together on this.”
In the weeks and months following the announcement, Mrs Cox and her team had held countless meetings with around 15 organisations and charities, as well as groups set up to specifically look at Government policy - all ahead of a formal launch planned for late summer.
Among those involved in the commission were the charity the Campaign to End Loneliness, who partnered with The Yorkshire Post to launch Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic in February 2014.
The charity’s director, Marcus Rand, said Mrs Cox’s passion for the issue was “infectious”.
Mr Rand, said: “Jo was amazing. Within the space of just a few weeks with a sharp brain and kind heart and unstoppable energy she had mobilised groups and individuals to come together to take on the issue of loneliness with a new idea - a high impact Commission on Loneliness. That was her innovative way of helping us achieve our goal.
“Her passion for the issue was infectious. It moved us all. We and all her colleagues in Westminster must continue her great work. She would have wanted that - for us all to continue and to put an end to loneliness.”
Mrs Cox had also tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament congratulating The Yorkshire Post on its campaign, and calling on the Government to require all health trusts and local authorities to include tackling loneliness in their health and wellbeing strategies - a key factor of the YP’s own campaign, after we revealed the nine Yorkshire authorities were failing to give significant mention of the issue in this crucial policy document back in 2014. Under pressure from the campaign, seven of these have now pledged action.
Almost a third of the region’s over-65s who live alone - 91,300 - admit to feeling lonely all or most of the time.
In the run up to the anniversary, The Yorkshire Post’s managing editor Nicola Furbisher and lead campaign reporter Lindsay Pantry met with Mrs Cox and discussed the project at length.
Both were inspired by her commitment to tackling the issue, one she had intending on focusing on even before she was elected.
Mrs Furbisher described Mrs Cox as a “whirlwind of activity” and “a complete inspiration.”
Miss Pantry said: “Jo’s passion for ending loneliness was abundantly clear - and it rubbed off on all those who she spoke to about it, including us. It was an exciting time and we were looking forward to working with Jo and her team on the commission.
“We hope that her hard work and commitment to tackling loneliness among people of all ages will be continued.”