This family impact statement was read in court by Brendan Cox on behalf of Jo’s family on 23rd November 2016
We are not here to plead for retribution. We have no interest in the perpetrator. We feel nothing but pity for him; that his life was so devoid of love that his only way of finding meaning was to attack a defenseless woman who represented the best of our country in an act of supreme cowardice. Cowardice that has continued throughout this trial.
We are here because we want to tell you about Jo. Who she was and what she meant to us. You have heard so much about her death, we’d like to tell you just a little about her life.
Jo was interested in everyone. Driven not by her ego but by her desire to help. Connected deeply to her community and proud of her country, but interested in the world. Connected to her roots but not defined by them. Earnestly committed to making the world a better place but with an easy smile and a devilish sense of fun.
Jo grew up on the streets of Batley and Heckmondwike. She’d spend the long summer evenings in the fields across from her house with her sister and friends. She’d often tell our kids about her adventures; one of her favourites was rolling down hills in old barrels. How she made it to adulthood was a miracle.
She was inseparable from her sister and had a close-knit group of friends. Her mum and dad gave her all the love and support growing up that she needed. She had an especially close relationship with her Granddad Arthur who was the local postman. She loved going for long walks with him on the weekend, loved how he greeted everyone as friends and his deep connection with the community.
When growing up Jo was painfully shy, so much so that she couldn’t even call rail-enquiries to find out train times and used to ask her sister to do it for her. So going to Cambridge – and becoming the first member of her family to graduate from university – was quite a shock. It was at this stage that she started to become more political – to realise that who you were and what accent you had often defined your life chances. And that, she felt – just wasn’t right. She decided to dedicate the rest of her life to trying to change that, in whatever way she could.
Early in her career she went to work for Glenys Kinnock in Brussels. Here she established herself as a feisty, fun and supremely effective advocate, she moved on to run Oxfam’s office in Brussels pushing the EU to do more for the world’s poorest. She built a wide group of friends and spent most evenings chatting, drinking and dancing with them.
Jo and I first met when we both worked for Oxfam shortly after she moved to their headquarters in Oxford. We fell in love walking the banks of the River Thames, climbing mountains and living on our narrowboat on the canals and rivers of Oxford. We were bound together by a love of adventure, laughter and a zest for life.
Our commitment to doing our bit to improve our country and the world deepened our bond and gave us a shared mission. On our holidays we’d go to Bosnia and Croatia to work with kids who had lost their parents – she threw herself into it – so much so that she’d regularly sustain injuries from running into trees or getting balls of ice – masquerading as snowballs – in the face during increasingly chaotic games with dozens of kids.
Jo and I got married in 2009 in one of the most remote places in the Uk, a wild peninsular called Knoydart. – much to the bemusement of our family who had to hike in in their wedding gear.
One year later- as she abseiled down the inaccessible pinnacle – the most difficult mountain in the UK – she realised she was pregnant with our first child.
Our second child was born two years later and she spent her first week in intensive care. We didn’t know if she would make it. Jo hardly left her side in a week and thanks to the amazing care of the doctors and nurses, combined with our love, slowly she got better.
Jo loved being a mum. She threw herself at it with the energy and enthusiasm that defined her. From time to time the lack of sleep and exhaustion started to get to her – but with a little help she’d soon rebound.
Many people think of Jo first and foremost as an MP and a campaigner. But being a mum always came first. When in parliament she’d vote in her cycling gear in order to be able to be home in time for bedtime, she’d skip votes that were less important even if that sometimes made the whips angry. Our kids came first.
She created a world of adventure for them with long stories she’d make up about Finley the Fieldmouse, with wild boar hunts into the woods and with an ability to throw herself into any roleplay that that day’s game dictated – from being a mole to a marauding monster. Our children still inhabit the world she created for them.
In 2015 Jo was told that the MP in her home town was standing down. Jo had been asked to stand for parliament several times before but she never really wanted to be just an MP – she only ever wanted to be the MP for her hometown. She ran in the selection and by going house to house and just being who she was she won it and became the Labour candidate, later winning the election of 2015.
When Jo became an MP she committed to using her time well. She decided early on that she would work as if she only had a limited time – and would always do what she thought was right even if it made her unpopular. So she walked her own path, criticised her own party when she felt it was wrong and was willing to work with the other side when they shared a common cause. The causes she took on ranged from Syria to autism, protecting civilians in wars to tackling the loneliness of older people in her constituency.
Above all she loved being an MP because of the connection back to her home town. It made her feel grounded again to be back in Batley and the surrounding towns. She especially loved talking at schools. I often teased her about the lack of votes in schools to which she’d reply it’s not about votes, it’s about getting kids to know that they can do anything they set their minds to.
None of this means she was perfect – she was far from it. From driving in the middle lane to being late for every meeting. From forgetting her bike for a cycling holiday to absentmindedly almost burning down our boat on at least two occasions. She could be one of the most frustrating people in the world.
But the things that made her frustrating we now remember with as much affection as the things that made her exceptional.
Jo was a warm, open and supremely empathetic woman. She was powerful – not because of the position she held – but because of the intensity of her passion and her commitment to her values come what may.
The killing of Jo was in my view a political act, an act of terrorism – but in the history of such acts it was perhaps the most incompetent and self-defeating. An act driven by hatred which instead has created an outpouring of love. An act designed to drive communities apart which has instead pulled them together. An act designed to silence a voice which instead has allowed millions of others to hear it.
Jo is no longer with us, but her love, her example and her values live on. For the rest of our lives we will not lament how unlucky we were to have her taken from us, but how unbelievably lucky we were to have her in our lives for so long.
As a much-loved friend, daughter, sister, auntie, wife and mum, Jo lit up our lives. And she still does.