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Jo Cox MP - an incredible person

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17 June 2016
jocox It's very rare for me to feel the need to write something for the sake of writing itself. 

But today is one of those days. 

I write all the time: emails, letters, tweets, speeches. I am not a prolific producer of articles or blogs as the effort of assembling jumbled thoughts often seems a bit too much like hard work. 

But today I need to write. 

I need to articulate how I feel following the brutal murder of my colleague Jo Cox yesterday.  

Jo was a very special person. She was fiercely intelligent, decent and fun. I liked her a lot.  

The first time I met Jo was just over a year ago.  

I was in the opposition whips' office at the time and I'd been asked (at the last minute) to put together an induction programme for the 2015 intake of new Labour MPs.

I remember organising our first session and being sat at the front of Committee Room 14 looking at a sea of faces I recognised from Twitter. 

Jo stood out. She was a no-nonsense Yorkshire lass. She stood up to ask a question and I can remember thinking "now, that's a woman who knows her own mind". She was as stylish as she was formidable.  

She came up to me afterwards and asked me a series of practical questions about setting up her office and how to organise her time between the constituency, Westminster and her family. She wrote everything down and I'm sure that by 5 o'clock that day, every bullet point would have been actioned. She wanted to get on with the job of being an MP - not grandstanding, not opining - just doing her job. 

So I liked her.  

I liked her even more when I watched her on Newsnight a few months later being interviewed about Syria. She was calling for UK involvement in enforcing a no fly zone to allow humanitarian aid to Syrians. I admired her. I found her argument compelling and thought how it takes courage to do Newsnight just months after becoming an MP. I was becoming increasingly distressed at the failure of the international community to intervene - the images of yazidi women herded on a hillside left me wringing my hands but Jo was out there making a case. 

So, I admired her. I really admired her.

The truth is I wish I'd had the chance to become her friend.  

We used to find ourselves stood next to each other in the division lobbies when we were voting. MPs file past the Commons clerks according to surname and with me being an "A" and her being a "C", we'd often both be near to the front of the queue, often wearing our trainers. We'd chat about our determination to find time in our days to exercise, both of us agreeing that if we didn't do it, we became unbearable and ineffective. She was someone who looked you in the eye when she spoke to you - not over your shoulder waiting for someone more important to come along. I told her I'd always loved the idea of living on a house boat - she said you must come for a drink - I never did. 

I am desperately sad that I won't have that opportunity to be her friend but I am utterly devastated that her children and her husband have lost her from their lives.  

I am desperately sad that her constituents have lost one of the finest representatives they could ever wish to have and I am devastated that our politics will never benefit from the totality of her wisdom and compassion.  

Jo Cox really was the sort of MP this country needs. She was a decent, brave, intelligent, principled woman. She was sensible and pragmatic. She was someone who left you feeling better at the end of a conversation than at the start and she had a zest for life that can often be lost in the corridors of Westminster.  

I really liked Jo and I will miss her. If anything good can come out of this tragedy, surely it must be that all of us do everything we can to ensure that what she stood for, her ideals and the sort of politics she wanted to see, become the norm in our country and our democracy. 

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