House of Lords, 20th June 2016
My Lords, the tragic death of Jo Cox is devastating. I send all my love to Brendan, their beloved children and her proud, devoted parents, Gordon and Jean.
Jo Leadbeater came to work for me in the European Parliament nearly 20 years ago as my diary secretary. Within weeks, it was obvious that this hugely intelligent, effervescent young woman was going to do much more than minister to my logistical needs.
She seized on my passion for international development, democracy and womens’ rights and very rapidly became an innovator of thought and action. Our close and deep friendship was made then and it has enriched my life ever since.
I was overjoyed when she had her lovely children and thrilled by her continual and earned successes including, of course, her election to her native Batley and Spen last year. She has, as I anticipated, been an outstanding parliamentarian.
When she left me for work with NGO’s, her capacity for original thinking, practical deed, and team leadership showed that she was, as one of her colleagues has said, a “pocket rocket” for the internationalist causes of aid, development and justice she worked throughout her life.
She was a unique mixture of high intelligence, gaiety, bravery, energy and kindness; and she had an endless capacity for hard work.
Her whole life was dedicated to her fellow human beings in her constituency, in Syria, in Africa and anywhere where she could and did offer practical, useful compassion. She fought tirelessly on every front for justice and against prejudice and poverty.
Jo not only did nothing bad in her life, she – much more importantly – successfully strove to always do good.
Happily, she was no saint. She was mischievous, merry, irreverent as well as focussed, determined, resilient and brave.
My Lords, I feel cheated by the loss of this precious, valiant young woman. Our country and our world has been robbed of a unique talent, a glowing spirit of progress, enlightenment and emancipation.
I cannot imagine what madness could have taken this truly wonderful young woman from us. It has punished goodness with badness. It has left so many of us feeling emptiness.
We must overcome that. Jo Cox would have said: “don’t mourn - work, organise, and campaign for a better world”.
I hope that we would, and we will, heed her.