COMMENT: We're so proud of you Jo
Batley and Spen is a community in shock. In grief. In complete and utter disbelief.
A week on from the horrific events in Birstall last Thursday and nobody can really comprehend what has happened here. How can we? How can anyone? So much has been said about Jo Cox in the last seven days, yet it seems there is still so much more to be said. Jo was Batley and Spen to the core. She was one of us. She was the local girl who made it all the way to Westminster and set out on the journey there for all the right reasons. She wanted to serve the community she grew up in and wow, how she served it. She gave us such an incredible amount in so short a time. Jo was a tireless campaigner on many national and international issues but she was also passionately involved with things that really mattered to local people. She was heavily involved with the Batley Station improvement campaign. She met regularly with local trade leaders to fight for our high streets in Batley, Birstall, Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton. There can’t be a school in our area she didn’t visit. Jo wasn’t some distant politician who disappeared off to Westminster only to show up in the constituency when there was a good media opportunity to be had. She was here as often as Commons business would allow and not just out of a sense of duty. She was here because she cared, deeply, with every fibre of her Yorkshire made body. Jo accomplished so much in the year she represented us. She would have achieved so, so much more. That is why her loss is our loss. And that is why the attack on her was an attack on us all. It would be all too easy to let anger take over as the overriding emotion right now. Anger that this clever, talented, vivacious, loving, brilliant woman - an adored wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend - has been robbed of her life. Anger that such an affront to our democracy could happen right here, in our community. But anger is the last thing Jo would want. Jo would want us to express only love and hope - and that’s two things we in Batley and Spen, and indeed the people of all of North Kirklees, have to give in abundance. We cannot allow what happened in Birstall Market Place a week ago to define our community. We cannot allow the area we love -that Jo loved - to become synonymous with such an unspeakable act of hatred. And the incredible response to her death shows that we won’t. Because, in the words of someone in Birstall this week, ‘This is not what our community is about. We’re better than this’. We will never be able to make sense of what has happened but we must now come together to rebuild our community and prove Jo’s own words that we have “more in common”. It might seem impossible now but we need to find a way to achieve something good in the midst of this tragedy. One of the tributes that struck a chord this week came from one of our neighbouring MPs, Morley and Outwood’s Andrea Jenkyns. She recalled how only recently she visited Batley Girls’ High and spoke to a shy young girl who had met Jo when she had visited the school. Andrea said the teenager’s face lit up as she spoke of how inspired she had been by Jo to believe in herself and to go out and make a difference in the world. Emily Warrilow, the Gomersal teenager who has become a campaigning force to be reckoned with in her community, came to know Jo very well and is another shining example of how the MP touched lives and inspired people to be the best they could. Emily, along with that Batley Girls’ High pupil, won’t be the only ones. There must be countless young people who Jo had this effect on. And wouldn’t it be perfect if this was her lasting legacy? Generations to come will learn about ‘our Jo’ and if her life, and death, inspire them to love a little more, to care a little more, to want to make a difference - to go out and try to change the world - that will be a wonderful thing. And could there really be any better way to honour Jo? Surely she would have loved that. And this is why there will always be so much still to be said about Jo Cox - not just in the weeks to come but in the coming years and decades. Yesterday people gathered across the world to celebrate her life on what would have been her birthday. Here in Jo’s own community we’ll celebrate her every single day. And we’ll be grateful that we had her to represent us, even if it was for such a short time. So thank you Jo. You were so very proud to represent the people of Batley and Spen. And we, the people of Batley and Spen, are so incredibly proud of you.