Yesterday, Jo Cox MP was doing what a really good politician should be doing – talking to her constituents, listening to their concerns, making herself available for them. Like almost all of us, she became a politician because she cared passionately about making the world a better place – eradicating poverty, bringing respect and dignity and a more fulfilling way of life for all, reversing the destruction of our planet, working together to overcome division and hatred and fear. Unlike almost all of us, she had lived her commitment to social justice, not just preaching it but doing it, in her work for Oxfam, Save the Children and the NSPCC.
It is terrible when anyone dies, especially a mother of young children. It is appalling and tragic that Jo should have been so brutally murdered simply because she was striving to help others and create a better, safer world.
There should be no place for bigotry or hatred or violence in our politics. We know there are issues we disagree about. We know that sometimes we find some of our fellow politicians unhelpful or irritating or unsympathetic. But however much we disagree with someone’s views, we need to treat them with respect as human beings. If violence is ever allowed to become a tool of our politics it will spell the end of democracy. That is why the Labour Party is pleased and grateful that the Conservatives have honourably declared that they will not contest the vacancy at Batley and Spen that has arisen from Jo’s death.
And it is time for the media and for other prominent non-politicians in our society to speak up too. For too long, lazy commentators have been able to get cheap laughs from implying that all politicians are dishonest, self-centred and uncaring. The British public need to be aware that they can choose to actively support a democratic politics for our society, or allow the peddlers of bigotry and violence to gain the upper hand. There is no inalienable law which says that the UK will be a democratic country for ever – it requires commitment and resolve from each and every one of us.
I believe that Jo Cox would have achieved great things if she had not been taken from us. Nothing we can do or say will bring her back. But I also believe that she will leave a significant legacy – that people throughout the UK will stop and ask themselves how we have allowed our society to become poisoned to the extent that someone could perpetrate this evil act in the name of a political view. As a nation we must pull back from that brink, and we should remember Jo and her contribution to a better politics.
Sandy Martin, Leader of the Labour Group