On 16 June our community was rocked by the unimaginable tragedy of the death of Jo Cox mp. Words still cannot adequately describe the feelings of horror, loss and disbelief as the news spread and the eyes of the world turned on Birstall.
Over the days since we have heard so much about Jo, her life and her achievements. We have heard from world leaders, chief executives of charities and politicians from all parties. Many have spoken with such warmth and admiration, and deservedly so.
Perhaps more tellingly though we have also heard from her constituents, the ordinary folk on the street of Batley and Spen. From the people that Jo formed such a strong connection with over the relatively short period of time she was our mp. And, she was “our” mp. Politics has the power to divide opinion unlike any other topic. MPs are, I dare say, rarely universally liked and respected in their constituency, but from all the comments and conversations I have heard you get the overwhelming sense that Jo was.
In an article I wrote in this paper just before the general election I reflected on our rich heritage of long serving MPs, who fought for and championed Batley and Spen. I talked about the importance of local as well as national politics, and the importance of electing an MP who would be there for our towns and not just for Westminister. In Jo, I think we had found someone who would not just continue, but build on that heritage. In such a short time as our MP she did so much.
I first met Jo when she was campaigning in the run up to the general election, and I confess I did so with the usual degree of scepticism I reserve for any politician. It did not take very long for Jo to sweep away that scepticism, with her boundless energy and drive. Since then it has been my pleasure and privilege to have met Jo many times, in particular as part of her ongoing efforts to regenerate and revitalise Batley, and to have had the opportunity to contribute to those efforts.
At this most difficult of times my, and the thoughts and prayers of my BBA colleagues are with Jo’s family in particular, but also with her friends and everybody whose life she touched in some way. And as I write this one memory of Jo keeps returning, the one thing you rarely saw her without, her smile, which could and truly did light up the room.
First published in the Batley News on 23 June 2016