While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.
Jo Cox’s maiden speech in Parliament (2015)
Helen Joanne “Jo” Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, was killed in her constituency on 16 June on her way to an advice surgery, having been shot by an unwell local resident with links to numerous far right and white nationalist movements.
Jo Cox was first elected as an MP in 2015, but prior to this she had worked with the humanitarian charity Oxfam and, through Oxfam, as an adviser to Sarah Brown on issues related to pre-natal and childhood deaths around the world. She also advised the anti-slavery charity Freedom Fund.
Once elected as an MP, she devoted a great deal of energy to the humanitarian crisis unfolding out of the Syrian civil war, and urged an ethical solution to the conflict, as well as the creation of safe haven zones. She founded the All-Party Parliamentary Friends of Syria Group and became its first chair. She was a firm believer in internationalism and solidarity transcending national boundaries. She campaigned passionately for the UK to remain in the EU; she was taking a break from this campaigning to attend to her constituents when she was killed.
Jo’s humanitarian streak emerged from her fundamental outlook on life: she was a humanist, and a registered supporter of Humanists UK. As was highlighted in her maiden speech to Parliament, it was her strong belief that people’s shared values outweighed their differences, and that we could all live more harmoniously by recognising and celebrating our common humanity.
Jo represented the best of Humanism: outward-looking, compassionate, humane, self-critical, warm, funny, and profoundly empathetic. Her death at 41 marked a dark day in the history of the United Kingdom. Her death was not just the loss of a devoted public servant, wife, and mother, but that of a powerful advocate for justice everywhere in the world. She will be deeply missed.