David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn and Commons Speaker John Bercow joined together to pay tribute to Labour MP Jo Cox during a visit to her constituency in West Yorkshire today.
The Prime Minister said the nation was “rightly shocked” at her death, adding: “Two children have lost their mother, a husband has lost a loving wife and Parliament has lost one of its most passionate and brilliant campaigners.”
Parliament is to be recalled on Monday to allow MPs to pay tribute to Mrs Cox, Mr Corbyn said.
Mrs Cox, the mother of two who entered Parliament as MP for Batley & Spen in last year’s general election, was shot and stabbed to death in the street outside her constituency advice surgery in Birstall on Thursday.
As campaigning for the EU referendum remained suspended in the wake of her death, the Prime Minister, Labour leader and Commons Speaker set aside political debate to remember the much-loved campaigning MP across the market square from the scene of her killing, which was still cordoned off by police tape.
Joined by Commons chaplain Rose Hudson-Wilkin and Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn, they bowed their heads as they laid bouquets at the foot of the Joseph Priestley memorial, adding to the impromptu shrine of flowers and messages which has grown up over the past day.
Their visit came after Conservatives announced that they will not contest the by-election resulting from her death.
Mr Corbyn said Mrs Cox’s killing was an attack on democracy.
The Labour leader said: “We need our whole society to be secure.
“Jo was brutally murdered here 24 hours ago in this town - a town she loved, a town she grew up in, serving a community she loved.
“And in her life she’d worked for anti-slavery campaigns, she’d worked for Oxfam, she was a campaigner for human rights and justice all around the world.
“She was taken from us in an act of hatred, in a vile act that has killed her.
“It’s an attack on democracy, what happened yesterday.”
Mr Cameron said: “Where we see hatred, where we find division, where we see intolerance we must drive it out of our politics and out of our public life and out of our communities.
“If we truly want to honour Jo, then what we should do is recognise that her values - service, community, tolerance - the values she lived by and worked by, those are the values that we need to redouble in our national life in the months and years to come.”
Mr Corbyn added: “Jo was an exceptional, wonderful, very talented woman, taken from us in her early 40s when she had so much to give and so much of her life ahead of her.
“In her memory, we will not allow those people that spread hatred and poison to divide our society, we will strengthen our democracy, strengthen our free speech.
“She was a truly wonderful woman. I’m deeply sorry, deeply sad, for what has happened to her. My condolences to all the people of Batley and Spen who she represented so well, and of course to a wonderful family - her husband, her children and all of her wider family.”
The Labour leader paid tribute to the “truly wonderful” statement made by Mrs Cox’s husband Brendan, which he said was a message that “in her memory we should try to conquer hatred with love and with respect”.
He said: “I’ve asked the Prime Minister and Speaker for the recall of Parliament on Monday and they’ve accepted that request and Parliament will be recalled on Monday so that we can pay due tribute to her on behalf of everybody in this country who values democracy, values the right of free speech and values the right of political expression, free from the kind of brutality that Jo suffered.
“That’s why we all need to come together to understand that everyone must have protection and security in order to function in a democratic society.”
Mr Cameron said he first met Mrs Cox, a former aid worker, in Darfur, western Sudan, in 2006 where she had been “doing what she was brilliant at, which was looking after and saving the lives of vulnerable refugees”.
He added: “Today our nation is rightly shocked. It is a moment to stand back and think about some of the things that are so important about our country.”
He said the country “should treasure and value our democracy where Members of Parliament are out in the public, accountable to the public, available to the public and that’s how Jo died. She died doing her job”.
The Prime Minister said politics was about public service and MPs wanted to “make the world a better place”.
Mr Cameron called for people to “value and see as precious the democracy we have on these islands”.
The Prime Minister said Britain has peace, stability, and economic well-being, which is “all underpinned by tolerance”.
Mr Bercow said Mrs Cox was an “outstanding” MP who made an “extraordinary impression” in her 13 months in Parliament but still had “a huge amount more to give”.
The Commons Speaker added: “It was a despicable and appalling act which has shocked not merely people in Batley and Spen but right across the country and, I suspect, many millions of people around the world.
“Evil cannot be allowed and will not be allowed to triumph over good, and we just have to underline our determination as politicians across the spectrum that free speech and the right of people to go about their business and the pursuit of principle will continue, and it will not be dulled or dimmed or cowed in any way by people who think that violence and the spirit of hatred can be allowed to triumph.
“That has not happened, as I think we’re demonstrating today, and it will not happen. Not now and not at any time.
Mr Bercow said he saw how extraordinarily hard-working Mrs Cox was from his position as Speaker.
He said: “From my vantage point, I got to see her, I got to hear her, I knew of her passion, I knew of her commitment, I knew of her ability and I knew of her quite extraordinary hard work.
“Everyone here today knows that and we have come together in grief and admiration and in respect.”
Media from across the world waited in silence for the visitors to arrive.
Walking together, Mr Corbyn, Mr Cameron and Mr Bercow all carried white bouquets, while Mr Benn and Ms Hudson-Wilkin brought red floral tributes.
Each stood solemnly in front of the memorial as they placed their flowers in turn.
On the card attached to his bouquet, Mr Cameron wrote: “Jo, a loving mother and wife, a passionate MP and campaigner. You died serving your constituents and country. We hold your family in our prayers. You will never be forgotten.”
Mr Corbyn wrote: “In loving memory of a wonderful, passionate and committed woman. Her life was dedicated to justice and human rights and proud to represent Batley and Spen.”
After Mr Cameron, Mr Corbyn and Mr Bercow addressed the crowd, the group spoke to and embraced the MPs gathered at the scene.
As they left to return to their waiting cars, Mr Corbyn got mobbed by the crowd and stopped to speak to two Labour supporters.
John Marley, 74, said he stopped Mr Corbyn as he walked past him. He said: “I just thanked him for coming and told him to look after himself in these dodgy times.”
Tom Smith, 28, added: “It’s so unusual to hear about anything like this happening, especially here. It’s unbelievable and horrific.”
The father of the MP’s assistant Fazila Aswat described how his daughter tried to comfort her after the attack, which left her bleeding copiously.
“She tried to help her, she tried to hit (the attacker) with her handbag but he tried to go at her. People came so he followed them and he came back again and shot her again twice,” former Labour councillor Ghulam Maniyar told ITV News.
“She said her injury was so bad, and she was in her arms. There was lots of blood.
“She could not do anything else. She tried to comfort her.”
Mrs Cox’s death comes three months after a man was cautioned for sending her “malicious communications”, but police have confirmed this was not the same man who was arrested on Thursday following the attack.
Witnesses said her assailant kicked and stabbed her and then shot her several times, the final shot aimed at her head.
Politicians have been warned to review their security following the horrific killing.
A reminder of safety guidance, which includes steps representatives can take to stay safe when they are “out and about” and suggests if they have any concerns they should contact their local police, has been issued, No 10 said.
The alleged gunman has been named locally as Tommy Mair, 52, who neighbours in Birstall have described as “a loner”. He was arrested near the scene soon after the attack.
The MP’s husband Brendan said: “Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love.
“I and Jo’s friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.
“Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.
“She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now: one, that our precious children are bathed in love, and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.
“Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.
“Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full.”
The Conservative Party said it would not contest the by-election in Batley and Spen resulting from the death of Mrs Cox.
No date has yet been set for the vote to find a new MP for the West Yorkshire seat, which Ms Cox had held for just over a year.
She entered Parliament at last year’s general election, holding the seat for Labour by a comfortable majority of 6,057.
The constituency has been held by Labour since 1997, but was previously a Conservative seat since its creation in 1983.