Husband of the late MP Jo Cox pens powerful tribute to his wife

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Harriet Hall
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Brendan Cox, husband of the late Labour MP Jo Cox, has penned a powerful and moving tribute to his wife, remembering her “optimistic” nature, and promising to continue her political fight.

Jo Cox was murdered in West Yorkshire in June this year, when out campaigning. The 41-year-old was outside the Birstall library, when she was attacked with a knife and shot three times by 52-year-old Thomas Mair.

Writing in the New York Times, her husband – an activist and campaigner in his own right –  cites memories of his late wife's smile and positive spirit. 

He recalls Jo as  “an optimist by instinct”, “positively personified” and “with a warm smile and a ready laugh, she was a woman who constantly looked for the best in people and situations.” She was dedicated to her constituents, he recollects, always prioritising their needs over her own.

Cox explains how his focus has changed since his wife’s murder, saying that his primary focus is now on his two children, and helping them overcome their mother’s sudden death:

“On loving our children and giving them the security, support and reassurance they need to survive what happened. They are doing better than I could have hoped — they have their mother’s resilience and spirit.”

But Cox has also been focused on advancing his wife’s political aims – and working to remove the hatred and extremism in our culture.

He writes about the 42% increase in hate crimes since the referendum, and the “scapegoating of refugees,” citing these issues as the result of hatred spouted by demagogue politicians, causing long-term damage.

“This is not just a British problem,” he writes, referencing the French national Front leader, Marine Le Pen, Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, former UKIP leader, Nigel Farage and Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump.

While he acknowledges these people all have different aims, he says: “they share a strategy based on exploiting divisions between people, promoting fear and hatred on the basis of identity.”

Explaining how he has thought long and hard about how he can “advance Jo’s beliefs,” he recalls her admirable lack of despondence, and deep-rooted belief that “most people are good, and that human empathy is a powerful force for change.”

Pledging to dedicate himself to his wife’s cause, Cox says his new mission is that of “bringing communities together and advancing mutual understanding,” and that this is “the good that must come out of the horror” of his partner’s death.

Cox describes the fight against hatred as “a defining issue of our time” and one that no-one can afford to ignore.

The letter finishes on a rallying cry for people to speak out, campaign, and not to be silent observers – because his wife certainly never was.

“Jo would have maintained all her optimism despite all that has happened,” he writes, “Not out of blind faith, but because she believed that what we hold in common is more significant than our differences. It is our job to realize her vision.”

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Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall is a former Stylist contributor.