Gordon Brown: Jo Cox was ‘an inspiration’

Former prime minister Gordon Brown
Former prime minister Gordon Brown
Have your say

The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has spoken of how the Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox was an “inspiration” for his work in foreign affairs, as he celebrated her “fearless” drive to stop Britain shying away from its responsibilities on the international stage.

The one-time Labour leader was joined by a number of political figures in paying tribute to the late Yorkshire MP today, as they launched the final copy of a cross-party report into British interventionism that she instigated before her death.

Addressing an audience which included the MP’s husband Brendan Cox, Mr Brown spoke of Jo’s disappointment at the UK’s past failures in protecting the victims of conflict and genocide around the globe.

But he said the message she left behind was “very clear” – that Britain must step up to the challenge of tackling injustice, wherever in the world it may occur.

“Jo Cox has been an inspiration to me in what I have done in foreign affairs and in what I have learned in foreign affairs,” he said.

“She was fearless in standing up against those who she disagreed with and wanted their policies and attitudes to change. And she was fearless in standing up and writing this last pamphlet... about the responsibility to protect.

“From Darfur, to the vicinity of Syria, to Bosnia, to Kashmir, Jo visited and supported and worked with all those people who were victims of our failure to protect them in these places.

“I think the message of Jo’s life was very clear... that we must consider our moral responsibility to people whom we should see as neighbours, and we must consider more seriously what we should do when people are in the direst of circumstances and need our help.”

The report, titled The Cost of Doing Nothing, was originally due to be published last July – one month after Mrs Cox’s murder –to coincide with the delayed Chilcot inquiry.

A collaboration with the Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, it warns of the “dangerous implications” of the recent rise in anti-interventionist attitudes.

It states that the failures and losses of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq “have undermined the idea that humanitarian outcomes can be delivered by military intervention”.

But it concludes that “standing aside” can creat further dangers “from vast population movements, to acts of violence fomented in ungoverned spaces”.

This message was welcomed by the former Foreign Secretary Lord Hague, who said the UK must resist “the temptation to turn in on ourselves” in the face of great atrocities.

“I completely support the message of this report, and I believe there is a strong bi-partisan tradition on these issues that Jo Cox and Tom Tugendhat have demonstrated,” he said.

“Faced with genocide, conflict or mass atrocity, we have a moral and political responsibility to come to the aid of other people in the world, and its usually in our best long term security interests as well to do so.

“Britain is one of the few countries in the world that can move the dial in world affairs; that has the development resources. Sometimes we have to turn that dial.”

Commenting on the paper itself, the former Richmond MP added that it was “another fitting tribute to... a fearless and clear sighted Yorkshire MP”,