How do you make sense of the murder of a vibrant young woman? How do you even begin to cope? In this searingly raw and powerful book, Brendan Cox details the life, the murder and the start of the legacy of Jo Cox.
Jo Cox MP, Labour Member for Batley and Spen, in the north of England, was shot and stabbed on June 16, 2016. She had been an MP for a little over a year and was five days short of her 42nd birthday. But Jo Cox was just not an MP, she was the mother of two young children, Cuillin and Lejla, a wife, daughter, sister and friend.
Brendan Cox, her husband, recounts the events of that terrible day and what followed, interspersed with accounts of her life before politics and her brief political career.
Jo Cox was an adventurous personality. She loved mountain climbing, she travelled extensively, mainly with her work, she lived on a boat on a London canal with her family and had a cottage in the country that she and Brendan renovated. She was a devoted mother and wife.
It is truly heartbreaking to read the events of that day, how the children were told, how friends family, the British Parliament, world leaders reacted in the days that followed.
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In his introduction, Brendan Cox writes that he wrote the book to process his own emotions, to give his children an account of their mother, to tell Jo’s story and finally, to continue Jo’s fight for the values of decency and a fair go. The book takes it title from something Jo Cox often said – that people have more in common than the things that divide them.
Jo Cox was murdered by a British white supremacist with Nazi sympathies in the week before the Brexit vote. His intentions were to silence Jo Cox’s voice of inclusion, in an atmosphere of the politics of division. An act born of hatred has in Brendan Cox ‘s words led to an outpouring of love, and Jo’s ideas and example are now known world wide.
Jo Cox’s story has not ended. The Jo Cox Foundation has been established to work with a range of causes important to Jo Cox – people living in social isolation, women in public life, and protecting civilians in armed conflict around the world. It is easy to get the link to the Jo Cox Foundation on the Internet.
Jo Cox had a wonderfully stable and happy childhood, growing up in Heckmondwike, a small town in West Yorkshire, with her parents Jean and Gordon Leadbeater and younger sister Kim. Gordon was a factory worker. After school, Jo went to Cambridge, where she first personally encountered the British class system, and seriously questioned her place there. She survived, graduating in 1995.
On a holiday in Thailand with a friend, Jo decided that her life’s work lay with aid and development. She spent a brief time in Borneo as a volunteer. She worked in Brussels as a parliamentary secretary, then worked for Oxfam, first in Brussels, then Oxford. This work involved travel to Africa where Jo saw first-hand living conditions in South Africa and Chad.
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Although only in Parliament for a short time, Jo Cox had an impact, speaking out against the Cameron government’s reaction to the Syrian conflict, working to combat social isolation of the elderly and, something she regarded as a mistake fairly quickly, joint nominating Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
Brendan Cox concentrates the story on his wife’s life, though he himself has had an interesting career, from the brief snippets he shows. He writes with great feeling as he reels from the blow of his wife’s murder and his desire to give his children the loving family life he and Jo had planned for them. He acknowledges those who have also suffered, Jo’s family and family and friends and the children’s nanny who have enabled him to carry on.
The book has a selection of photos, mainly from family albums. It is a biography, a political manifest, but above all a love story on many levels.
Jo Cox by Brendon Cox, (published by Hachette Australia) is available from Dymocks. Click here for details.