Holly Lynch – 2016 Speech in Tribute to Jo Cox

Below is the text of the speech made by Holly Lynch, the Labour MP for Halifax, in the House of Commons on 20 June 2016.

This is the hardest speech I will ever give. However, it was not difficult to write because there was so much that I wanted to say. Jo Cox, the hon. Member for Batley and Spen, was the very best of us. She may have been small, but in politics as in life, she packed a punch that was simply beyond measure. She came into this place with such passion and energy. From the start, she had a clarity about what she was here to achieve and what needed to change, and she was not going to waste any time in getting on with it. She knew that the people counting on her could not afford to wait.

Jo’s experiences of working in some of the most dangerous places in the world, caring for some of the most desperately vulnerable, upholding the principles of justice and basic human rights, were reflected in her politics and her character. It meant that when she spoke, people listened. There was a weight to what she had to say and she was not afraid to say it. She had a vision of a world better than the one that has taken her from us.

Characteristically, Jo would work across the Benches to build support for change in the most collegiate way. That has been reflected in the tributes paid to her.

When the new 2015 intake of Labour MPs arrived in Westminster in May last year, our then acting leader, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), told us:

“Every day you are an MP is a day that you can make a difference.”

Nobody embodied that sentiment more than Jo.

With friends and colleagues, Jo would speak candidly about the challenges of balancing a young family with the pressures of being a diligent and effective Member of Parliament. I was both Jo’s friend and Jo’s Whip, which should have been a difficult balance to strike, but it was not. That is not to say that she was the easiest person to whip as she knew that certain late night votes were not as important as being there to put her children to bed and to tuck them in.

Jo managed to reconcile being a hero of our movement with being incredibly down to earth. People only had to hear Jo speak to know that her roots were firmly in Batley and Spen. She was a daughter of Yorkshire and she fought tirelessly for those who had put their faith in her.

Like all of us, I will remember Jo in many different ways. She spoke of her predecessor, Dr Broughton, in her maiden speech, alluding to the fact that he had been credited with bringing down a Government, and she put Government Front Benchers on notice with a smile that we all came to know and love. Although they laughed it off at the time, I would not be at all surprised if they had become increasingly nervous once they began to realise just how formidable she was.

I will also remember Jo in the voting Lobbies in her cycling kit and trainers, leaving us all wondering where she found the energy. I remember hearing about the trials and tribulations of the kids recently having chicken pox. I remember regional news following her as a newly elected MP and capturing the moment when one of the kids lost their shoe to the Thames and Jo had to try to retrieve it, all before starting the day. I will remember her warmth, her spirit and her laugh.

Those of us from my intake who had the pleasure of Jo’s company as she hosted an event to mark our first year in office last Tuesday will be eternally grateful for those treasured memories and the chance to all be together one last time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Anna Turley) told me that she will remember Jo as a comet: burning brightly, lighting up the dark, awe-inspiring, giving off sparks of heat, light and positive energy wherever it goes. I cannot think of a better way of describing her.

Jo was the heart and soul of the Labour Benches and we are heartbroken. We loved her every day and we will miss her every day. She inspired us all and I swear that we will do everything in our power to make her and her family incredibly proud.