The man charged with murdering Labour MP Jo Cox gave his name in court as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” and has allegedly claimed to be a “political activist” during his arrest. JULIAN COLE mourns a special woman’s death
LIKE most of us, I wasn’t all that aware of Yorkshire MP Jo Cox until the moment of her shocking death. Unhappily, it seems, we didn’t know what we had until she was gone.
I recalled reading and agreeing with something sensible the newcomer Labour MP for Batley and Spen wrote recently in the Yorkshire Post under the headline, “Brexit is no answer to real concerns on immigration”.
So the horrifying news that this young Yorkshire mother, wife, friend to many, former aid worker and woman of principle had died from injuries received in a gun and knife attack as she emerged from her constituency surgery sickened me.
That an MP could be murdered as she went about her work is still too shocking to fully absorb. The death of this 41-year-old woman has produced a national shockwave so widespread and deep it is hard to recall anything similar.
A sad year of ‘famous’ deaths from Bowie to Prince and from Victoria Wood to Ronnie Corbett means we have already spent too much time mourning well-loved famous people; now we mourn someone most of us didn’t know. Sometimes that can seem an unhealthy emotion, but not here: when you read what Jo Cox had to say and what she believed in, when you hear tributes from her constituents, friends and fellow MPs, you genuinely can share the sense of loss. You feel that you knew her. Or, more tragically, that you are getting to know her just too late.
Jo Cox represented what is often thought of as an “unpopular culture”. Too many of us believe the worst of MPs: they are “all in it for themselves”, we say, feathering their own nests, insulating themselves with hot air.
Thanks to such commonly held views, it has been easy to forget that not all MPs have their snouts in the parliamentary trough; easy to overlook those who work hard and have strong beliefs; easy to fall for the caricature of cruel satire.
Of course such unkind sketches arise for a reason. And there is a tragic irony in a good politician being so cruelly taken at a time when politics has been wearing its worst clothes. This Europe debate has been the nastiest, least civilised and generally foul display of politics in memory.
Maybe that’s what politics is, the fierce putting and pitting of views. But away from the quarrelsome arena, there are constituency MPs of all political colours who work hard in the area they represent.
Jo Cox was exemplary in a way that isn’t usual now, in that she represented the area where she was born and brought up. She was a proper local girl, someone who represented her people, rather than an outsider imposed by party machinery or machination.
She had only been an MP for a year. The personal tragedy has to be carried by her husband and two young children, as well as her friends. Yet there is a wider tragedy too in the sense of so much having been lost.
The cliché that goes ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’ rang true with Jo Cox.
And that’s the real tragedy.