Parliament recalled as Cameron and Corbyn pay tribute to Jo Cox

Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn lay flowers in Birstall. PIC: PA
Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn lay flowers in Birstall. PIC: PA
Have your say

David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn and John Bercow have united to pay tribute to Labour MP Jo Cox in the West Yorkshire town where she was killed.

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 Corbyn said: “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.

“It’s a tragedy beyond tragedy what has happened yesterday.

“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: “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.”