Jo Cox was a very special person. Full of fun and bright ideas.
As the shock of her appalling death begins to sink in, we still feel numb from the loss of one of our very best. That terrible day will forever be remembered with anguish as an attack not just on her, but on all of us who believe in democracy and decency.
In her year in Parliament Jo made a lasting impression. Widely respected by colleagues across the house, people looked at her and saw someone they trusted and instantly liked.
I have no doubt that Jo, whose funeral is taking place today, would have gone on to achieve even greater things in politics, both for the part of West Yorkshire that she was so proud to represent and the causes she gave so much of her life defending.
Jo had an energy, passion and commitment to those she served that transcended party politics. Her life lived up to that ideal of speaking up for people who can’t speak up for themselves.
She died in the cause of that effort. Her spirit and determination are an inspiration to all of us as we seek to continue that mission.
In parliament Jo never relented from the passionate advocacy that shone through her career at Oxfam and development charities. Her success in pushing the Government to do more to support Syrian refugees will undoubtedly both save and improve many lives.
Jo never lost sight of the barriers facing her Batley and Spen constituents. In a recent parliamentary debate she called for an end to the unfair gap in achievement between children from more and less affluent families.
Whether in our local schools or in a refugee camp far from home, we are reminded that no child should be left behind.
Today we are united in grief. Our thoughts are with her husband Brendan and her family. Jo’s two young children have lost their mother. Her constituents have lost a champion. Our politics is diminished for their loss.
Our task now is to ensure that division and discord gives way to unity and progress. There is no challenge we face that cannot be overcome by bringing people together to find solutions, building understanding with those we disagree with, and more compassion in our politics.
As Brendan wrote, Jo would have asked “that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her”. That should be Jo’s legacy and we must all play our part to make it a reality.
The outpouring of collective grief that followed the news has brought out the best in people. A sense of solidarity was witnessed with memorials in towns and cities stretching across the country. Tributes poured in from across the world.
Causes close to Jo’s heart will benefit from the extraordinary generosity of ordinary people who have donated to her memorial fund. Three great charities will be able to improve lives at home and abroad as a result. The Royal Voluntary Service will continue vital efforts to support volunteers to combat loneliness in Jo’s constituency.
It is fitting that the excellent work of Hope Not Hate in challenging hate and extremism within local communities will be supported.
Jo’s commitment to the people of Syria will also continue with the search and rescue workers of The White Helmets supported in their emergency responses to support civilians following bombings.
The fund will improve many people’s lives in Syria, Batley and across the UK. It has almost reached a remarkable £1.5 million and you can make a donation at https://www.gofundme.com/jocox
How we conduct our politics matters. We must strive to heal rather than inflame and offer answers rather than fuel grievance. A respectful tone should guide us through the heat of the debate in the weeks and months ahead. The vast majority of people in our country want a more decent politics and civil debate. The referendum was a spirited disagreement but too often also divisive.
Today we should take the opportunity to reach out to others. The eyes of the world are on Britain and we must stay true to our best traditions of being tolerant, welcoming and open to the world. It is only by working together with others that we will meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Jo lived by example in the service of others. That is something we can all aspire to as we seek to build a better future at home and abroad.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that.
Dan Jarvis is the Labour MP for Barnsley Central