Jo Cox was regarded by Labour colleagues as one of the brightest stars among the intake of MPs who joined the Commons at last year’s general election.
The 41-year-old former head of humanitarian campaigning at Oxfam made a mark by calling repeatedly for Britain to do more to help the victims of Syria’s civil war. She remained in regular contact with former colleagues in the aid world who are working to help refugees in the region. She called Commons debates on the plight of the refugees and believed the UK Government should do more both to help the victims and use its influence to bring an end to the conflict.
She met her husband Brendan, a former executive at Save the Children, when they both worked in the aid industry. He was Gordon Brown’s adviser on international development when he was Prime Minister.
The couple live on a boat moored at Wapping, near London’s Tower Bridge, with their two young children. She divided her time between there and her Batley and Spen constituency in West Yorkshire, where she grew up and still has family. Highly active locally, she had a majority of 6,057 at last year's election.
The strong campaigner for women's rights was one of the MPs who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership last year to widen debate in the party even though they had no intention of voting for him. She admitted she regretted her decision after Labour managed only mixed results in the local elections in May, describing them as “a terrible missed opportunity.”
A strong supporter of EU membership, she used an interview with The Independent last month to urge Jeremy Corbyn to do more to mobilise the party’s supporters behind a Remain vote. It turned out to be a prophetic warning; since then, the opinion polls suggest that many working class Labour voters are shifting to the Leave camp.
Ms Cox regarded herself as on the “left” and “not a Blairite” even though she backed Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate, in last year’s leadership contest. Although seen as one of Mr Corbyn’s many critics inside the Parliamentary Labour Party, she insisted she was a “critical friend” who wants him to run an inclusive Labour Party with a message that reached out beyond its traditional base.
She told The Independent: “Some of the people around him are very good at talking to the movement that helped propel Jeremy to power in the party – a really important constituency who are passionate, principled and excited…They cannot be blind to the fact that that is not enough of a constituency or coalition to get us into power.”
Ms Cox hinted that Mr Corbyn should stand down voluntarily before the next general election if he could not show that Labour was a government-in-waiting. She said: “The clock is ticking. If we don’t change tack, many Labour MPs will not be Labour MPs after the 2020 election. It is not just Jeremy; we are all on probation. The future of the Labour Party is. We need to show there is a role for the Labour Party and we are a government-in-waiting.”