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16 June 2016

Labour MP Jo Cox shot dead in her West Yorkshire constituency

Jo Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen, has died following an attack outside a constituency surgery she was holding in a local library.

By New Statesman

Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, has died after being shot and stabbed on Market Street, outside Birstall Library, where she was holding a constituency advice session. Cox received treatment on the scene before being airlifted to Leeds General, where she died.  An older man also suffered slight injuries.

A 52-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the attack. The West Yorkshire Police are not, at present, looking for anyone else. 

Both official EU referendum campaign groups have suspended campaigning.

Cox, who was 41, was elected to the Commons for the first time in 2015. She was born in Batley. After graduating from Cambridge in 1995, she worked for Oxfam for a decade, spending time in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones. Her London base was a converted barge moored on the River Thames, where she lived with her husband Brendan and two young children, Lejla and Cuillin.

After entering the Commons, she campaigned for Palestinian statehood and served co-chair of the APPG on Syria, calling for David Cameron to develop a “holistic plan” to deal with both the so-called Islamic State and Bashar Al-Assad. She abstained on the vote for air strikes in Syria.

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Cox was one of the 35 MPs who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership, though she herself voted for Liz Kendall.

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Corbyn praised Cox’s “lifelong record of public service and a deep commitment to humanity”, saying “the whole of the Labour Party and Labour family – and indeed the whole country – will be in shock at the horrific murder of Jo Cox today”.

“In the coming days,” Corbyn continued, “There will be questions to answer about how and why she died. But for now all our thoughts are with Jo’s husband Brendan and their two young children. They will grow up without their mum, but can be immensely proud of what she did, what she achieved and what she stood for.”

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party, said: “It is hard to comprehend how a compassionate, principled and beautiful person can be taken away from us so cruelly. It’s even more devastating because she was doing what she did best – serving her constituents.” 

Attacks on British MPs are rare – the last occured in 2010, when Stephen Timms, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Labour MP for East Ham, was stabbed by a student who told police it was “in revenge for the Iraq war”. Timms made a full recovery. The Tory MP for Croydon Central, Gavin Barwell, described earlier this month how he was “threatened with a knife” by a furious man during a constituency surgery, though he was not harmed. 

In 2000, Liberal Democrat peer Nigel Jones was attacked and his aide Andrew Pennington was killed with a sword. Following the attack, Jones called on the police and security service to ensure that all security arrangements for MPs were “fit for purpose”. The last MP to die following an attack was Ian Gow in 1990, the victim of a car bomb planted by the IRA. 

Although the Prime Minister and ministers at the Home Office and Northern Ireland receive police protection, the bulk of MPs do not. 

Cox’s husband Brendan Cox has released a statement on her life and legacy: 

Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo’s friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.

Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.

She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.

Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full.

Prime Minister David Cameron also released a statement, saying Jo was a “great campaigning MP with huge compassion, with a big heart and people are going to be very, very sad at what has happened”. He added: “It’s right that we’re suspending campaigning activity in this referendum and everyone’s thoughts will be with Jo’s family and her constituents at this terrible time.”​