Tribute to Jo Cox MP

20th June 2016

This afternoon Parliament gathers to pay tribute to Jo Cox MP - Member of Parliament for Batley, so horrifically murdered last week by a fanatic who it seems had targeted her because of her political beliefs and brutally attacked her whilst she was going about her duty as a constituency MP.

The brutal killing of an MP going about her job, and standing up for human rights, democracy and decency is a violent attack on the very fabric of our country.  Jo lit up Parliament with her energy, decency and commitment since her election last May. She has paid the highest price for her beliefs.  She leaves a husband and two young children. All of us who care about democracy must all now stand together and ensure that when her children ask 'Why did Mummy die, Daddy?' her husband Brendan can tell them to be proud because she died standing up for the values on which our freedoms and Parliamentary democracy are based. Let us bé inspired by her sacrifice to stand up for those values and insist that the politics of prejudice, intolerance, hate and violence have no part in our society.

Her death has rightly shocked the nation, and the world.

Sadly, owing to a long pre-arranged Rally for RemaIN in Manchester today - which I know Jo would have wanted us to hold - I am unable to be in the House this afternoon with fellow MPs to join the special Parliamentary session and Memorial service for Jo.

Were I in the Chamber I would be joining with colleagues from all other parties - literally, by sitting with them, together, on the same benches - to commemorate and mourn the tragic loss of a brilliant Member of Parliament, community campaigner, defender of the rights of child refugees, and a special and much-loved human being.

As well as being a devastating tragedy for her family, Jo's killing has been a huge shock to all of of us who cherish our democracy.

As has been repeated countless times, by numerous politicians, over the last four days, the brutal attack on Jo felt like - and is - an attack on us all. Its an attack on democracy and on the core values of freedom and tolerance that we all hold so dear.

Nothing can ever bring Jo back - Brendan Cox has lost his adored wife and their beloved children will grow up without their mother - but we can try, as we attempt to make sense of Jo's death, to make sure that she didn't die in vain.

Let's use this moment in our history to recovenant our respect for politics done well, for open and accessible and accountable Parliamentarians, for free speech and civilised debate, and let's pledge to ourselves and to each other that we will continue to fight for freedom, for tolerance - for understanding between individuals, between nations and peoples, and to do our best to ensure that love, hope understanding will always triumph over hate, fear and despair then we will be doing something good. And let us do it in Jo's name.

On Thursday evening I held a vigil in my constituency found myself taking comfort from various words, written by others over many hundreds of years, that seem to go to the heart of the issues raised by Jo's tragic death. I would like to share these again today.

FIrst of all John Donne's "No Man is an Island" which reminds us that we are all connected on many levels, and that every death diminishes us all:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Secondly, John of Gaunt's speech from Shakesperare's RIchard II, which brings to mind a time when this wonderful country felt under threat from destructive influences, and reminds us that we ought never to cease in upholding the values that we cherish:

"This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself."

Thirdly, Kahlil Gibran's poem, "Pity the Nation" which I think rather speaks for itself:

"Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave
and eats a bread it does not harvest.

Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,
yet submits in its awakening.

Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
between the sword and the block.

Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking

Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
and farewells him with hooting,
only to welcome another with trumpeting again.

Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.

Pity the nation divided into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation".

And finally, I would like to quote some famous words from St Paul's letter to the Corinthians. Whatever your religion, and even if you have none, these are powerful words, that can comfort and inspire us as much, if not more, today than ever.

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

 

George Freeman MP

George Freeman MP. June 20th 2016

 

What do YOU think the legacy of Jo Cox's murder should be? Do you agree with me that it needs to be a turning point for a better politics? Let me know what you think by emailing me here: George.freeman.mp@parliament.uk

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