Mr Speaker, this will be the hardest speech I will ever give, however it wasn’t difficult to write, as there was just so much that I wanted to say.
Jo Cox, the honourable member for Batley and Spen was the very best of us.
She may have been small, but she packed a political punch, which was simply, beyond measure.
She came into this place with such passion and energy. From the very start, she had a clarity about what she was here to achieve, about what needed to change, and she wasn’t going to waste any time in getting on with it. She knew that the people counting on her, couldn’t afford to wait.
Her experiences of working in some of the most dangerous places in the world, caring for some of the most desperately vulnerable, upholding the principles of justice and basic human rights, were reflected in both her politics, and her character. It meant that when she spoke, people listened. There was a weight to what she had to say, she wasn’t afraid to say it, and she had a vision of a world, better than the one which has taken her from us.
She would work characteristically across the benches to build support for change, in the most collegiate of ways, which has been reflected in the tributes paid to her.
When the new 2015 intake of Labour MPs arrived in Westminster in May of last year, I remember our then acting leader, the right honourable member for Camberwell and Peckham telling us, that ‘Every day you are an MP, is a day that you can make a difference.’
Nobody embodied that sentiment, more than Jo.
With friends and colleagues, she would speak candidly about the challenges of balancing a young family, with the pressures of being a diligent and effective member of Parliament.
I was both Jo’s friend, and Jo’s whip, which should have been a difficult balance to strike, but it wasn’t.
That’s not to say that she was the easiest person to whip, as she just knew that certain late night votes were just not as important as being there to put her children to bed and tuck them in.
Jo managed to reconcile being both, a hero, of our movement, with being incredibly down to earth. You only had to hear Jo speak to know that her roots were firmly in Batley and Spen. She was a daughter of Yorkshire and she fought tirelessly for those who had put their faith in her.
I, like all of us, will remember Jo in many different ways. She spoke of her predecessor Dr Broughton in her maiden speech, alluding to the fact that he had been credited with bringing down a Government, and she put the front bench opposite on notice with a smile that we all came to know and love. Whilst they laughed it off at the time, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they hadn’t become increasingly nervous once, they began to realise just how formidable she really was.
But I’ll also remember Jo, in the voting lobbies in her gym kit leaving us all wondering, really, where did she find the energy. I’ll remember hearing the trials and tribulations of the kids recently having chicken pox.
I will remember regional news following her as a newly elected MP, and capturing the moment when one of the kids lost a shoe to the Thames, that Jo had to try and retrieve, all before starting the day.
I will remember her warmth, her spirit, and her laugh.
And those of us from my intake who had the pleasure of her company as she hosted an event to mark our first year in office on Tuesday of last week, will be eternally grateful for those treasured memories and the chance to all be together one last time.
The honourable member for Redcar, told me that she will remember Jo as a comet. Burning brightly, lighting up the dark. Awe inspiring and giving off sparks of heat, light and positive energy wherever it goes, and I cannot think of a better way of describing her.
Mr Speaker, Jo was the heart and soul of these benches and we are heartbroken. We loved her every day and we will miss her every day. She inspired us all and I swear that we will do everything in our power, to make her and her family proud.