THOUSANDS of people around the world this week paid tribute to Jo Cox, the murdered MP for Batley and Spen.
On Wednesday, on what would have been her 42nd birthday, groups gathered in cities including Beirut, Brussels, Geneva, New York, Oslo, Nairobi, and Washington, and at the Glastonbury Festival, while, in London, a floating commemoration on the Thames was followed by a gathering in Trafalgar Square.
In her home town of Batley, a celebration of her life was planned for the Market Place. Dan Howard, one of her constituency office staff, said that the programme included musical tributes and contributions from friends and colleagues “who share Jo’s belief in the goodness of humanity”. A performance of the classic ballad “The Rose” performed by Batley Community Choir was to be beamed live to the rallies in London and Washington.
Her family and friends said in a statement: “Our gift to her, her family and all those who loved and cherished her, will be to come together to show the world there is more that unites us than divides us. The coming together of thousands of people in love and solidarity with Jo proves the strength of her ideas and values.” They would “celebrate Jo’s warmth, love, energy, passion, flair, Yorkshire heritage and belief in the humanity of every person in every place, from Batley and Spen to Aleppo and Daraya”.
Thomas Mair, 52, of Birstall, appeared in Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday, and was formally charged with Mrs Cox’s murder. When asked to give his name, he replied: “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.
On Tuesday, a “light sculpture” was built by the congregation at a remembrance service at Huddersfield Parish Church. The region’s three MPs joined civic and faith leaders to tie red, white, and blue ribbons to the sculpture in what was described as “an act of defiance to reclaim the flag as it was intended: a flag of unity and hope, and not the hate it has come to represent to some members of the community”.
The Vicar of Huddersfield, Canon Simon Moor, said it was important for the Church to respond to the grief and love felt for the Labour MP. “I am sure everyone who knew Jo would want her vision of love and unity to live on.”
The Bishop of Huddersfield, the Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Gibbs, said: “In this service we also want to celebrate the promise that God’s light shines even in the darkest places and that darkness can never finally overcome that light.”
Last Sunday, at one of two services of thanksgiving for the MP’s life at St Peter’s, Birstall — only a few minutes’ walk from the scene of her death — the Vicar, the Revd Paul Knight, described her as “someone with whom Jesus would have been so pleased”. He told the congregation: “Her humanity was powerful and compelling, and we would do well to recognise her as an amazing example: a 21st-century Good Samaritan.”
In Parliament on Monday, MPs showed a rare sign of unity when both Houses gathered to pay their own tribute. Most wore a white Yorkshire rose, and a white and a red rose were placed on the bench where Mrs Cox usually sat in the Chamber.
The Speaker John Bercow, told the MPs, some of whom were in tears, that they met “in heartbreaking sadness but also in heartfelt solidarity. . . An attack like this strikes not only at an individual but at our freedom.
“That is why we assemble here — both to honour Jo and to redouble our dedication to democracy.”
Mrs Cox’s husband, Brendan, their daughter, Lejla, aged three, and son, Cuillin, aged five, sat in the public gallery with other relatives as the Prime Minister led the tributes from all sides of the House. Mr Cox later told the BBC he believed she was killed because of her views. “She had very strong political views. . . I think she died because of them, and she would want to stand up for those in death as much as she did in life.”
Later on Monday, at a service in St Margaret’s at Westminster, the Archbishop of Canterbury quoted from St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: “Let your gentleness be known to everyone.”
He said: “During the meetings of the two Houses, we have, indeed, looked at and thought about what is true, what is honourable, what is just, pure, pleasing, commendable, and excellent. We have found it summed up in a life, and that life has been worthy of praise. We’ve heard of a life which took literally the reading that we heard first: to be liberal and ungrudging in giving. In giving of time and effort and energy, of life itself; that was both handed to the poor and needy neighbour not only in our own land, but around the world.”
Among other tributes, Canon Carol Wardman, Bishops’ Adviser for Church and Society in the Church in Wales, said: “Mrs Cox was known to many people in Wales from her work in both international development and in politics, and we mourn the loss of a brave and principled campaigner.”
Charles Badenoch, vice-president for advocacy and justice for children at World Vision International, said: “Jo was a shining advocate for children’s rights the world over, and an inspiration to so many people. Her senseless death is a huge blow.”
Last Saturday, members of the Muslim Mount Cricket Club in Batley stood in silence on the pitch to honour Mrs Cox, who had been a supporter of the team. The secretary, Suleman Motala, said: “She would come to the club on a Saturday and join in the cricket tea and show her support. We had a very warm relationship with her.”
A PRIEST in Jo Cox’s home town, the Revd Mark Umpleby, spoke this week of the tremendous sense of shock and loss that swept through the community and a determination not to let her killing destroy its cohesion.
Mr Umpleby is Associate Priest in the United Benefice of Batley. He heard of the attack on Mrs Cox soon after it happened on Thursday of last week. He spent the afternoon with civic leaders and friends of the MP waiting for updates and organising a vigil at All Saint’s, Batley.
As the news spread that Mrs Cox had died of her injuries, many people joined the Batley vigil and another at St Peter’s in Birstall. “It was a very moving time, as people were supporting one another in the shock, pain, and suffering they were going through.”
The following morning he spent two hours walking round Batley. “I was just speaking and listening to folk, sharing their shock and emotions,” he said. “It was important to be able to hear how folk felt.”
Later, he opened a book of condolences at All Saints’. “Lots of folk came, representing our whole community. All the children at Batley primary school came, class by class, to light candles, and one pupil from each class signed the book.”
That evening he stood with Kirklees’ council leaders and the local imam in Batley market square for a minute’s silence. Later, he was asked to offer the closing prayer at a vigil attended by more than 1000 people at the Al-Hikmah centre, run by the Batley Indian-Muslim Welfare Society.
On Saturday, Mr Umpleby stood with Mrs Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, and her family as she delivered a moving eulogy in Birstall market place. “It was a remarkable tribute,” he said. “There was a strong sense of remembering the positive parts of her life, the way she made a difference.”
On Sunday, after a special service in Batley parish church, he attended a minute’s silence on the pitch at Headingley cricket ground in Leeds before Yorkshire’s T20 match.
On Wednesday, he was due to sing with the town’s community choir at an event marking Mrs Cox’s birthday in Batley Market Place.
He said: “It has been an overwhelming week. There are still a lot of folk in shock and distressed by what happened last Thursday.
“But also, as people hear of the way Jo worked, what she believed in, what she felt was important — helping those on the margins, refugees, the voiceless — they are talking about that, and wanting to keep that as Jo’s legacy within our community and further afield.”