Jo Cox

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We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us
A memorial of Cox in London

Helen Joanne "Jo" Cox (22 June 1974 – 16 June 2016) was a British Labour Party politician. She was the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Batley and Spen constituency from her election in May 2015 until her murder 13 months later in June 2016, having won the seat with an increased majority for Labour in the 2015 general election.



  • I don’t think that maternal and child health is a global priority. The health and welfare of mothers and their children received unprecedented international attention in 2010, but not all Governments were involved and other issues subsequently knocked this issue off the top slot. For those Governments who did make specific policy and resource commitments, the role of civil society is to work hard to get them to deliver. However, to see a truly seismic shift in the life chances of mums-to-be and their babies, Governments — rich and poor — must tackle inequality, especially gender but also income.
  • Building an integrated, cost-effective, national health service that delivers quality care for all is one of the critical challenges facing anyone with a stake in global health. A mum doesn’t divide the health of her family up into different bits when she goes to a health clinic: ‘vaccines’, ‘malaria’, ‘HIV’. For her a health centre is a health centre and a nurse is a nurse. When she goes to get help, she should receive integrated care for all her family’s needs not just the one thing that centre, or health practitioner, happens to know about. We need to assign inefficient, parallel health interventions to the rubbish bin.


  • The idea that a child living deep in poverty whose parents don’t have enough money for food or heating, books or basic things like school trips can ever have the same opportunities for development as a more fortunate child is patently absurd. But because it leads to some difficult choices many politicians choose to ignore it, essentially promising to make you an omelette without breaking any eggs.
  • It’s not about creating an equal country, but it is about stopping the development of an underclass cut off from the rest of society. This focus could be a straight forward set of things like a living wage, supporting more effective pathways into work and an effective benefits system.


  • I have fought a really local and positive campaign full of energy and enthusiasm and I think that came across. I’m not nervous, I’m honour and humbled to be elected, I appreciate the big challenge ahead, I have two children aged two and four so I am used to the challenge.
  • We now face five years of an unbridled Conservative government that is intent on swingeing cuts, further attacks on society’s most vulnerable and on our NHS. This will severely limit what can be achieved but I am determined to work tirelessly to do what I can to make sure local people are heard in Parliament and protected from the worst of what is to come.
  • British policy on Syria has wandered aimlessly, a deadly mix of timidity and confusion. The lack of a coherent response, not just by Britain but by the wider international community, has allowed the situation in Syria to fester into the greatest humanitarian crisis of our lifetime. … We can and should do much more to help.
  • I don’t believe there will be a military solution to this conflict but I do believe there will be a military component to it. The vast majority of the fighting will be done by people from the region and by Syrians themselves, but that doesn’t mean that the UK shouldn’t play a role.
  • I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But despite all of the dangers and difficult judgements that lie ahead, burying our head in the sand is not an option. We must face up to this crisis and do all that we can to resolve it.
  • On the military side, we need to get two things right if we only talk about limited air strikes against Isil [Isis] – and I back international action against Isil – it will be counterproductive. We have to look at the conflict dynamic in Syria, and that is 75% of civilian deaths and causalities are caused by the Assad regime due to his aerial bombardment of civilians.
  • This is about a deterrence effect to stop the Syrian regime targeting their own civilians. I think it would be enforceable from the Mediterranean using US French and UK military capability already out there. It would mean the aerial bombardment of Syrian civilians would stop, and it would create space for peace talks.
  • I never really grew up being political or Labour. It kind of came at Cambridge where it was just a realisation that where you were born mattered. That how you spoke mattered... who you knew mattered. I didn’t really speak right or knew the right people. I spent the summers packing toothpaste at a factory working where my dad worked and everyone else had gone on a gap year! To be honest my experience at Cambridge really knocked me for about five years.
  • I’ve been in some horrific situations where women have been raped repeatedly in Darfur, I’ve been with child soldiers who have been given Kalashnikov and kill members of their own family in Uganda. In Afghanistan I was talking to Afghan elders who were world weary of a lack of sustained attention from their own Government and from the international community to stop problems early. That’s the thing that all of that experience gave me - if you ignore a problem it gets worse.

More in Common: Devolution and Growth Across Britain (19 June 2015)[edit]

Speech in the House of Commons — Devolution and Growth Across Britain (19 June 2015)
  • Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.
  • In my neck of the woods non-conformity is what we do best.
  • What many of our businesses are lacking is confidence: confidence to expand; confidence to borrow; confidence to grow; and the confidence to fuel a real economic recovery that benefits everybody, offering decent jobs, paying decent wages and bridging the skills gap.
  • It is time to give city and county regions the powers and resources they need to promote growth, and I will happily work with all of those who are genuinely committed to building an economic powerhouse in the north.
  • Yorkshire folk are not fools.
  • Many businesses in Yorkshire want the security and stability of Britain’s continued membership of the European Union, a cause I look forward to championing passionately in this place and elsewhere.
  • I am Batley and Spen born and bred, and I could not be prouder of that. I am proud that I was made in Yorkshire and I am proud of the things we make in Yorkshire. Britain should be proud of that, too. I look forward to representing the great people of Batley and Spen here over the next five years.

Don’t leave Syria to become a graveyard — this generation’s responsibility to the world (13 October 2015)[edit]

Jo Cox; Don’t leave Syria to become a graveyard — this generation’s responsibility to the world (13 October 2015), The Yorkshire Post.
  • Every decade or so, the world is tested by a crisis so grave that it breaks the mould: one so horrific and inhumane that the response of politicians to it becomes emblematic of their generation —their moral leadership or cowardice, their resolution or incompetence. It is how history judges us.
  • We must put party politics to one side and focus on what really matters—the protection of Syrian civilians.
  • Please let us stop casting the humanitarian, diplomatic and military responses as mutually exclusive alternatives. They are not. If we are serious about addressing this crisis, we need to stop pretending that any one of them offers a panacea and instead weave these strands into a coherent strategy.
  • Let us not be duped into believing that we need to make a choice between dealing with either Assad or Isis. On the surface, this may seem appealing, but it is not an option. There is no choice.
  • No matter what our humanitarian response is to this crisis, it will never be enough. It cannot end the conflict.
  • If four years of continuous vicious conflict have taught us anything, it is that the current regime is no longer capable of bringing peace and stability to Syria.
  • While I do not believe that there is a purely military solution to this conflict, I do believe that there will be a military component to any viable solution.
  • I believe it is time for the Government urgently to consider deterring the indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilians in Syria through the willingness to consider the prudent and limited use of force.


We nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership. Now we regret it (6 May 2016)[edit]

We nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership. Now we regret it (6 May 2016), cowritten with Neil Coyle, The Guardian.
  • We owe it to everybody in our party to be honest about where we stand.
  • The Tories deserved a kicking last night. With chaos and discord in our hospitals and schools, an unprecedented housing crisis and fatcats lining their pockets while life gets tougher for everybody else, it’s an outrage for David Cameron to appear on TV looking like the cat who got the cream, knowing his party is on track to win again in 2020.
  • Labour is in the doldrums and we have to ask ourselves why. Why, day after day during the campaign, we failed to get a hearing. Why the voters aren’t getting the alternative vision of a fairer, stronger, more just Britain that we should be offering.
  • When the voters tell us on the doorsteps that they can’t picture our leader in No 10 we have to listen. When our candidates in London and Wales ask the leader to stay away, we have a problem. When the revival we were promised in Scotland with Corbyn’s “new” politics proves to be a mirage, we have to ask what it has actually achieved.
  • We both nominated Corbyn for leader last year. We have never had cause to doubt his commitment to society’s most disadvantaged and to Labour’s values – a commitment we all share. But we have come to regret that decision.
  • Weak leadership, poor judgment and a mistaken sense of priorities have created distraction after distraction and stopped us getting our message across.
  • Every time we flounder we just embolden them further.
  • Some say we need to be more patient. What we cannot, must not do is sit back and hope for the best.
  • Corbyn needs to show he’s ready to lead from the front. He and those around him must come out of their bunker, stop blaming everybody else, and show the discipline and determination to drive our message home. These elections were a terrible missed opportunity. We cannot afford any more.

A new progressive internationalism (17 June 2016)[edit]

A new progressive internationalism (17 June 2016), essay for the Fabian Society, as part of the pamphlet Outward to the World.
  • In recent years, Britain has withdrawn from the world. On Syria, on Europe, on Ukraine this government has been on the periphery: all victim of the same lack of long-term strategic thinking about British foreign policy and the absence of a moral compass. It is time for the left to revive its ethical foreign policy and carve out a new long-term narrative that puts human rights and the protection of civilians centre stage once again.
  • There is much to be proud of in the left’s internationalist past. Many from our movement made the ultimate sacrifice fighting Franco’s fascism during the Spanish civil war. We were unequivocal in our opposition to Apartheid in South Africa, led action to protect civilians in Kosovo and Sierra Leone. And we put this country firmly on the road to fulfil our historic commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on aid – an act of solidarity that has seen millions more children in school and many more women surviving childbirth. However, this active internationalist approach is not inevitable. It has been, and is still, contested across the political spectrum. It is threatened by an increasingly nationalist and isolationist right, by a government that has withdrawn from global leadership. And it is threatened by those on the left who might show great personal solidarity with international causes but tend to think the British state has no role to play.
  • I believe the left is now in a fundamental fight about our future approach to international affairs: one where we decide whether to channel UK resources, diplomatic influence and military capability in defence of human rights and the protection of civilians; or one where we stand on the sidelines frozen by our recent failures. I believe it’s time for the left to revive its ethical foreign policy and in particular, rebuild the case for a progressive approach to humanitarian intervention.
  • After the horror of 9/11interventionism’ was increasingly expressed through the paradigms of ‘security’ or ‘counter terrorism’, rather than being grounded firmly in the protection of civilians. And then Labour’s support for military action in Iraq distorted a worthy principle with such devastating impact. The legacy of Iraq – an intervention I was wholly opposed to because it was not fundamentally about protecting civilians – still hangs over us. But Labour can no longer be paralysed by Iraq. We need to learn from its many lessons without forgetting the equally important lessons of Bosnia or Rwanda.
  • President Assad dropped chemical weapons on school children and the world stood by. He rained down barrel bombs and cluster munitions on hospitals and homes and we did not respond. For too long, the UK government let the crisis fester on the ‘too difficult to deal with’ pile. There was no credible strategy, nor courage or leadership – instead we had chaos and incoherence, interspersed with the occasional gesture. It’s been a masterclass in how not to do foreign policy and a shameful lesson on what happens when you ignore a crisis of this magnitude.
  • Unless we act to end the slaughter of civilians in Syria by President Assad, Isis will continue to find a steady stream of recruits from the Syrian Sunni population driven to desperation and radicalisation. In this context no amount of military action against Isis will be able to eradicate them. ... As long as these attacks persist these forces will not be able to focus – as many want to – on freeing their country from the cancer of Isis.
  • The left should carve out a new long-term narrative about British foreign policy: one that puts human rights and the protection of civilians centre stage again. And one that reasserts our commitment to the responsibility to protect those most at risk of mass atrocity crimes. This isn’t really about being pro or anti-military intervention. Rather it’s a call to redefine the principles that will guide the decisions we take, as well as a commitment to then honour them.

Quotes about Cox[edit]

  • Before I heard the news that my friend Jo Cox had died from her injuries on Thursday, I sent her a text message, it read, 'you won't see this until you're better, but I love you'. And then I sat all day hoping, praying, willing her to recover.
    I still can't come to terms with the fact that she didn't. The 'I love you' still stands.
  • I know if she could read this now she would wince and recoil, like so many women she beat herself up constantly, thinking she was struggling to be a good enough mum or a good enough MP. She was more than good enough at both.
  • I think she was very worried that the language was coarsening, that people were being driven to take more extreme positions, that people didn’t work with each other as individuals and on issues; it was all much too tribal and unthinking. And she was particularly worried – we talked about this regularly – particularly worried about the direction of, not just in the UK but globally, the direction of politics at the moment, particularly around creating division and playing on people’s worst fears rather than their best instincts. So we talked about that a lot and it was something that worried her.
    • Jo Cox's husband, Brendan Cox, in an interview to the BBC [1] (21 June 2016)
  • She was a politician and she had very strong political views and I believe she was killed because of those views. I think she died because of them, and she would want to stand up for those in death as much as she did in life.
    • Jo Cox's husband, Brendan Cox, in an interview to the BBC [2] (21 June 2016)
  • The two things that I’ve been very focused on is how do we support and protect the children and how do we make sure that something good comes out of this, ... their mother was someone who was loved by lots of people and that therefore, it’s OK to be upset and it’s OK for them to cry and to be sad about it.
    • Jo Cox's husband, Brendan Cox, in an interview to the BBC [3] (21 June 2016)
  • She cherished every moment … I remember so much about her but most of all I will remember that she met the world with love and both love for her children, love in her family and also love for people she didn’t know. She just approached things with a spirit, she wasn’t perfect at all you know, but she just wanted to make the world a better place, to contribute, and we love her very much.
    • Jo Cox's husband, Brendan Cox, in an interview to the BBC [4] (21 June 2016)

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