Brendan Cox: Jo wouldn’t have wanted a tiny violent minority to define us

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Four years ago we woke up to a sunny June day. Our kids were excited about the day ahead.

Jo was up in Batley for the day where she was the MP, ready for a day of surgeries and helping local people, the part of the job she loved most.

A few hours later Jo had been killed and reeling with shock and pain I was working out how to tell the children. There is absolutely nothing worse.

In the years since we have sought to rebuild our lives, always trying to focus not on how she died or how crushing it is to lose her energy and love, but how lucky we were to have her in our lives for so long and how we still feel her love every single day.

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Jo was an optimistic person, passionate and empathetic. As a family we often think about what she is missing out on, the things we would give anything for her to experience just for a moment.

Sometimes I also think about what politics is missing with her not here. Because Jo was an optimist. She believed in people and in our country.

She was always someone who sought to find out what was good in someone rather than just focus on their faults. And our country needs that now more than ever.

The phrase “more in common” – from her maiden speech – has come to define Jo. That phrase was never to suggest we don’t have differences or shouldn’t disagree with each other – of course we should. It’s about trying to recognise that these differences and disagreements shouldn’t define or divide us.

The corona crisis is of course something that Jo wouldn’t have imagined, certainly not its scale and severity. But she would have guessed that one of the few positives to have come out of it is a sense of community spirit.

We all have our own stories of neighbours looking out for each other, doing the shopping for vulnerable people or going to work to keep the rest of us supplied and healthy.

And that feeling is supported in the polling. The number of people who say we look after each other has gone from 24% in February to 62% in May.

The question now is can we keep this sense of community spirit going or will it fade as events overtake us?

The answer to that question isn’t yet written. And what we all decide to do or not do will determine the outcome.

That’s partly a question about our leaders and politicians – will they seek to divide us or bring us together, will they spread fear or reassurance?

But it’s mostly about us, and what we decide to do. Whether we decide to keep building our own connections and communities even if the threat of the virus fades.

We set up the Great Get Together three years ago to try and bring communities closer together, to celebrate what we have in common. This year for obvious reasons it has to be virtual but there are so many people taking the opportunities to reconnect with each other and we hope others will get involved.

In July, the /Together coalition is building a national thank you day to coincide with the NHS’s birthday. On the 5th of July the country will say thank you to everyone who has helped us through the crisis so far, but it will also be a moment when we can chat with our neighbours and nurture the spirit that has got us through this.

I hope people will take part in moments like these – because it’s in these simple acts that we define ourselves as a country – let’s not leave that to a tiny violent minority or the loudest voices on social media. Let’s each step forward on our own streets and build on the best of our communities.

That’s the legacy Jo would want to build.

You can find out more about the Great Get Together and /Together here.

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