My friend Jo Cox was assassinated, but her legacy will be to unite communities | Stephen Kinnock

Now the trial is over we must remember the relentlessly positive Yorkshire lass for what she stood for as an MP, rather than for what happened to her

I’ll never forget 15 June 2016. That was the last time, after 20 years of friendship, that I saw Jo Cox. That was the last time she came bursting in, a bundle of positive energy in her cycling gear, to grab her work clothes out of the cupboard she kept in our shared office. Talking with such love, tenderness and humour about Lejla and Cuillin, her wonderful children.

The next day, while doing her job, serving the people of Batley and Spen, the place where she grew up, Jo was assassinated. And we should be in no doubt, as the verdict makes clear, that this was a political assassination.

It was a political act, an attack on my friend and our democracy carried out in a cold, calculated and clinical manner. Jo was killed because of who she was and because of what she stood for. It is important that we understand this, because otherwise we will learn nothing.

Words matter. If you engage in a politics of fear, hate and division; if you talk about a “breaking point”, you cannot expect there to be no consequences. But Jo showed us a better way, one of love, unity compassion and bravery – in stark contrast to the cowardice of her killer.

But this terrorist act has, as Brendan Cox put it, been utterly self-defeating. This was “an act driven by hatred which instead has created an outpouring of love. An act designed to drive communities apart, which has instead pulled them together. An act designed to silence a voice which instead has allowed millions of others to hear it.”

This shows us that out of the deep and painful darkness of Jo’s death, shines the bright the light of her legacy. So we must, together, build a better politics: a politics of hope not fear, of respect not hate, of unity not division and of love not hate. That is how Jo lived her life, how she served the people of Batley and Spen, and how she stood up for dispossessed communities all over the world.

Jo gave a voice to the voiceless, she exemplified the best of our country, and put her convictions to work for everyone she touched. Jo worked tirelessly across party lines because she understood that in our complex and interdependent world, compromise is a sign of strength not weakness. Jo was a pragmatic idealist in every sense of the term.

We will respond to hatred with love, say Jo Cox’s family

So with the trial now over, it is important that we remember Jo for who she was and what she did, rather than for what happened to her. As painful as her absence is, we must cherish the times we had with her and understand just how blessed we were to have had her with us for as long as we did.

As we work to overcome the divisions of the past year, it is up to every one of us in public life to do all we can to heal the wounds that scar our nation and communities so that we can reunite and rebuild. As we work towards that goal, we must draw inspiration from Jo, her life and work.

And as we will all cherish her public legacy, I will also cherish the private Jo. I’ll miss her counsel, companionship and above all, her friendship. She was a relentlessly positive person who could lift my spirits after the toughest of days. A true friend, I miss her every day I walk through that office door.

And so if ever I am feeling low I just need to look at the example provided both by Jo’s family – who have shown such remarkable courage and dignity in recent months – and by Jo herself. To paraphrase her sister, Kim, we will not be beaten, and must channel all our energy into ensuring Jo’s legacy is honoured.

She would not allow us to do anything else. We cannot allow our democracy to be intimidated, Jo certainly would not. And so we must now work to build a more respectful and united country. That is how we honour Jo: a proud Yorkshire lass who dedicate her life to the common good.

Jo, we love and salute you and will never forget you.


Stephen Kinnock

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Guardian view on the Jo Cox murder trial: a killing of our times | Editorial
Editorial: The rule of law and liberal society have responded well to the Labour MP’s murder. Yet the case is a sign of the times, not some inexplicable event


23, Nov, 2016 @7:42 PM

Article image
Should Thomas Mair be considered a terrorist? | Hugh Muir and Joseph Harker
The far-right sympathiser was jailed for life of the murder of MP Jo Cox. Hugh Muir and Joseph Harker debate whether he should be labelled as a terrorist

Hugh Muir and Joseph Harker

24, Nov, 2016 @12:39 PM

Article image
After David Amess’s death, MPs will feel the cold shiver of vulnerability | Rafael Behr
The veteran Conservative’s killing is a human tragedy and a chilling assault on British democracy, says Guardian columnist Rafael Behr

Rafael Behr

15, Oct, 2021 @5:19 PM

Article image
Johnson whips up fear of the leftwing mob, but the true threat is from the right | Owen Jones
The prime minister compares Labour activists to far-right US extremists yet ignores some of his own supporters, says Guardian columnist Owen Jones

Owen Jones

18, Jan, 2021 @5:38 PM

Article image
Whether or not Labour wins Batley and Spen, the party is in deep trouble | Owen Jones
Those who felt listened to under Jeremy Corbyn feel sidelined – or, like Scottish voters before them, simply used, says Guardian columnist Owen Jones

Owen Jones

16, Jun, 2021 @2:27 PM

Article image
The Batley and Spen result can’t paper over the cracks for Labour | Paula Surridge
It is clear that voters’ differing views on religion, immigration and national identity are still a problem for the party, says political sociologist Paula Surridge

Paula Surridge

02, Jul, 2021 @2:45 PM

Article image
The murder of my wife, Jo Cox, is being used to cow MPs. That’s not her legacy | Brendan Cox
Her name should be a synonym for kindness and unity – not a threat, says Brendan Cox

Brendan Cox

08, Jan, 2019 @2:58 PM

Article image
Brendan Cox: 'You've heard so much about Jo's death, we'd like to talk about her life'
MP’s husband read the following impact statement in court on behalf of her family at the end of Thomas Mair’s trial

23, Nov, 2016 @2:43 PM

Article image
For rightwing hypocrisy on free speech, look at Anjem Choudary | Michael Segalov
Choudary was sent to jail – no-platformed by the state – and rightly so. The law treats hate speech the same whether it’s from the far right or Islamic extremists, says journalist and author Michael Segalov

Michael Segalov

21, Sep, 2018 @9:02 AM

Article image
Team investigating anti-MP crime deals with 102 complaints in first year
Complaints addressed by team set up after Jo Cox murder include abusive messages, thefts and criminal damage

Sarah Marsh

14, Sep, 2017 @5:00 AM