This issue of I-M focuses on formidable women. We thought that in this context, it would be appropriate to open the magazine with an article dedicated to Jo Cox, the MP who was horrifically mur- dered on June 16th last year. Her brutal and untimely death shocked Britain. The following days saw an outpouring of grief, compassion and unity as people reacted to her death. We came to understand, some for the first time, the extent to which this young MP’s whole life had been marked by a fierce drive to help make the world a fairer, kinder and more tolerant place.
Jo’s death sparked international condemnation and tributes poured in. A personal friend, Canadian MP Nathan Cullen paid tribute to Cox in the Canadian House of Commons. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded in an assassination attempt in 2011, were among international politicians who sent messages of condemnation and sympathy in the aftermath of her killing.
Barack Obama praised her work:
“Jo Cox’s selfless service to others made the world a better place.”
Then Prime Minister David Cameron said she was
“a star for her constituents, a star in Parliament, and right across the house.”
Her husband, Brendan Cox, urged us to remember what she stood for – not the manner of her death. And now, in support of that goal, he has published a book about her life and what she stood for. He says: “After Jo was killed, friends and strangers got in touch saying that I should write about Jo to tell people who she was. That’s what I hope this book will do – explain what motivated Jo, and where her enthusiasm, empathy and love came from. I want people to understand what she believed, what she fought for, and what she was trying to do. I hope readers will not just understand, but be inspired. That way, I hope, Jo can continue to make a difference, long after we lost her.”
Published a few days before the first anniversary of Jo’s death, the book Jo Cox: More in Common* is a moving and passionate portrait of Jo. It shows her as a mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend as well as activist and MP. It contains thoughts from her diaries and memories from Brendan and others who were close to her throughout her life. It explains the extent of Jo’s expertise in charity, policy and politics, and looks back at her childhood in Yorkshire – and how her early beliefs and values shaped her work as an MP.
Born in Batley, West Yorkshire, Jo studied Social and Political Sciences at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Later she studied at the London School of Economics. She was the first member of her family to attend University. From childhood, Jo was showing signs of the kind of woman she would become. At the grammar school she attended, she was head girl. During summers, she worked packing toothpaste at the factory where her father worked.
Straight after her graduation from Pembroke College, Cox worked as an advisor to Labour MP Joan Walley, before moving to Brussels for two years to advise Glenys Kinnock, wife of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, who was then a Member of the European Parliament. Jo was a great supporter of charity. In 2001, she joined Oxfam in Brussels, leading the group’s trade reform campaign. In 2005 she became head of policy and advocacy at Oxfam GB, and in 2007 head of Oxfam’s International’s humanitarian campaigns in NY. During her time working for Oxfam she met disadvantaged groups in Darfur and Afghanistan, who influenced her political thinking.
Jo was nominated by the Labour Party to contest the Batley and Spen seat being vacated by Mike Wood in the 2015 general election. Jo won the seat with 43.2% of the vote. In her maiden speech in the House of Commons, she celebrated her constituency’s ethnic diversity, and highlighted the economic challenges facing the community, urging the government to rethink its approach to economic regeneration.
Cox campaigned for a solution to the Syrian Civil War. In October 2015, together with Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, she co-wrote an article in The Observer arguing that British military forces could help achieve an ethical solution to the conflict, including the creation of civilian safe havens in Syria. That same month, Jo launched the All Party Parliamentary Friends of Syria group, becoming its chair.
In February 2016, Jo wrote to the Nobel Committee praising the work of the Syrian Civil Defense, a civilian voluntary emergency rescue organisation known as the White Helmets, and nominating them for the Nobel Peace Prize. She said about them:
“In the most dangerous place on earth these unarmed volunteers risk their lives to help anyone in need regardless of religion or politics”.
The nomination was accepted by the committee, and gained the support of twenty of her fellow MPs, Canada, and celebrities including George Clooney, Daniel Craig, Chris Martin and Michael Palin.
Following her death, the Jo Cox Foundation was established to continue her work and to highlight the issues she cared about so deeply – from the plight of innocent civilians in Syria to the despair caused by loneliness and social isolation in the UK. The Foundation is part of the coalition which organised The Great Get Together, a weekend of community celebra- tions inspired by Jo’s belief that ‘we have far more in common than that which divides us’. More than 100,000 events took place across the country on the weekend of June 16th -18th.
*Jo Cox: More in Common, by Brendan Cox is published by Two Roads Hardback
All Mr Cox’s royalties will be donated to the Jo Cox Foundation