Jayne Dowle: We cannot have a country where MPs like Jo Cox fear for their lives

The family of Jo Cox at the shrine to the Batley & Spen MP.
The family of Jo Cox at the shrine to the Batley & Spen MP.
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OF all the heartfelt words and moving footage we have witnessed since Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox was killed, one image stands out.

It is that of her constituents in a packed vigil at St Peter’s Church in her constituency on the night she died; men, women, children and teenagers, in anoraks, turbans, hijabs and workmen’s vests.

It was estimated that 500 people, including her Labour colleagues Caroline Flint. Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh, Naz Shah and many others, attended the impromptu service, led by the Bishop of Huddersfield, the Right Rev Jonathan Gibbs, on the night of her untimely death.

If ever you wanted to see a cross-section of a multi-cultural community united in a common cause, here it was.

How desperately sad that all these people were brought together because of a tragic event which robbed them of a dedicated and persuasive fighter for their causes, took a wife and mother from her young family, and as her shocked Parliamentary colleagues testified, deprived the Labour Party of a talented politician who had so much further to go.

Jo Cox once told the world that she entered politics to “make a difference”. These words have been said before plenty of times by others with political ambitions. Rarely, though, have they been as sincerely meant, or evidenced by such stalwart work. As co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group, Friends of Syria, Ms Cox’s determination to find a solution to the five-year civil war in that country characterised her one-year spell as an MP.

How terribly ironic that her determination to help the victims of conflict, in particularly the children whose lives are blighted by constant battle, only became fully apparent after her killing.

What we can take from her death are a series of awful warnings of what we face in Great Britain in 2016.

Above all, we cannot live in a country in which our Members of Parliament are in fear for their lives. If MPs are in potential danger, all power must be unleashed to offer them the protection they need as soon as possible. Who knows how many of her colleagues are carrying a similar secret burden, afraid to open their front door or take their children to school?

It also tells us that issues surrounding immigration and the EU referendum have become mixed up into a terrible and potent hatred which goes unrepresented by the fancy words of Ministers arguing the toss.

There are many sensible and well-informed people who put forward a good case for immigration to be curbed and for Britain to leave the European Union.

However, behind the curtains in ordinary houses, there is a growing and festering resentment towards those who are perceived to hold power.

Jo Cox epitomised a new kind of politician. Born in the constituency which she represented, she was immensely proud of her Yorkshire roots and spoke with a broad accent which make a huge impact in Westminster. If anyone was equipped to help those constituents who felt isolated or ignored, it would surely have been her.

Her dedication to her constituents marked her out. The fact that she was attacked as she went about her business of attending a local surgery is poignant. As well as her passion for international welfare, she cared about women’s rights and maternal health, and worked with the redoubtable Sarah Brown, wife of former Prime Minister Gordon, to improve conditions for expectant mothers.

The respect in which she was held, both by Parliamentary colleagues and local people, is testament to her exemplary attitude. She proved that there are still individuals who enter politics because they want to serve, and not for personal gain or self-aggrandisement.

Her record should stand as an example to others, as proof that democracy 
does work, and as an inspiration to those who feel that they have something to 
offer politics but no idea of how to manage it.

That she spoke in the House regularly, dealt with the concerns of constituents, and was bringing up two small children with her husband, Brendan, a charity campaigner, is testament to both her organisational skills and the fact that other able women should not be scared to attempt a political career.

Here was no Labour party puppet with limited experience of “real life”. Her mother was a secretary and her dad worked in a toothpaste factory, where she too undertook a summer job during her vacation from Cambridge University – she graduated as the first person in her family to hold a degree.

Her work helping refugees took her all over the world, but there are countless photographs of her at local events.

What a fitting tribute it would be to see a scholarship or award founded in her name to help youngsters in her constituency further their studies or embark upon voluntary work abroad.

Jo Cox was a good woman. She did good things. Her death was pointless, but it had a point. It proved that a light can still shine in a troubled world.