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Jacinda Ardern echoes Jo Cox in powerful Anzac Day speech about the importance of togetherness

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Moya Crockett
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Jacinda Ardern

At an Anzac Day service, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern echoed the words of murdered British Labour MP Jo Cox: “There is more that unites us than divides us.”

In the wake of the terror attacks at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was widely praised for her empathetic, courageous and dignified response to the tragedy. Now, the world’s youngest female state leader has delivered a speech in which she echoed the words of Jo Cox, the British MP murdered by a man with links to neo-Nazi and far-right groups.

Ardern appeared at a dawn service to mark Anzac Day, a national day of remembrance in New Zealand and Australia designed to commemorate lives lost in war.

Peace in New Zealand had been “altered dramatically by the terrorist attacks in Christchurch,” she said, before calling on the world to recommit to the “simple values of freedom, democracy and peace”.

“Let us recommit to always remembering our shared humanity.

“There is more that unites us than divides us.”

Prince William and Jacinda Ardern
Jacinda Ardern gives Prince William a traditional Maori greeting on Anzac Day

Later in the day, Ardern met with Prince William, who has travelled to New Zealand for Anzac Day. But it was a simple phrase from her dawn speech that stood out.

“There is more that unites us than divides us” is a powerful echo of the first parliamentary speech delivered by British Labour MP Jo Cox, who was fatally shot and stabbed by a far-right terrorist in June 2016. In Cox’s maiden speech to parliament, the MP for Batley and Spen had called on the UK’s politicians to embrace diversity as a force for good.

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“Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages,” Cox said.

“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.”

Jacinda Ardern on Anzac Day
Jacinda Ardern lays a wreath at the Auckland War Memorial Museum on Anzac Day

While Ardern did not mention Cox by name, it would not be surprising if she deliberately chose to reiterate her words. Cox was a politician in the same mould as Ardern: she represented British Labour, just as Ardern leads New Zealand’s Labour Party, and espoused Ardern’s values of tolerance, multiculturalism and kindness.

It is also sharply relevant that Cox was murdered by a far-right extremist. The man charged with the Islamophobic shootings in Christchurch – which left 50 people dead and injured 50 more – also subscribes to white supremacist and alt-right beliefs. Ardern has refused to say the killer’s name out loud as a way of denying him the infamy he apparently craved, a decision praised by Cox’s husband Brendan Cox. 

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“The decision of the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to never utter the name of the Christchurch terrorist is both a moral choice and a practical way of making future attacks less likely,” Brendan Cox wrote in March. “The media need to learn from her example.

“In the two-and-a-half years since my wife Jo died, I have never uttered the name of the person who killed her,” he continued.

“My children have never heard it and it doesn’t appear in the book that I wrote about Jo. He has been forgotten by our family and by the vast majority of the public. And that’s how it should be.”

Images: Getty Images

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk. As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, politics and psychology. Carrying a bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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