A birthday party like no other: The world remembers Jo Cox

Birthday cards left for Jo Cox MP in Batley.
Birthday cards left for Jo Cox MP in Batley.

Thousands of people have gathered around the world to remember the life of West Yorkshire MP Jo Cox on what would have been her 42nd birthday.

Her widower Brendan and two young children joined friends, colleagues and high-profile campaigners in London, as others met in her home town of Batley, and at international events.

A man wipes away a tear at the flowers for Jo Cox MP.

A man wipes away a tear at the flowers for Jo Cox MP.

Earlier on Wednesday Mr Cox and his children made their way to the memorial along the river Thames by barge.

Colourful bunting was strung from bow to stern, and a Union Jack flag streamed from the back of the black and white boat, named Stormvogel.

Sitting close to his daughter, who was wearing a life jacket, Mr Cox looked ahead as the vessel passed under the Millennium footbridge heading west towards Westminster.

Towed closely behind was a small black-hulled boat with “Yorkshire Rose” painted on the bow in white lettering, filled with red and white roses which were also stuck to its mast.

One of several #MoreInCommon events taking place across the country and around the globe was held in Trafalgar Square, London, where people used the inclusivity theme of the late MP’s maiden speech in the Commons to remember Mrs Cox.

The mother of two died last week after being shot and stabbed in Birstall, near Leeds.

Those on the stage were greeted by a sea of placards, many carrying the slogan #LoveLikeJo and #MoreInCommon, while others were simply colour portraits of the smiling MP.

Hosting the event, Ms Cox’s friend and television presenter Mariella Frostrup said the pair bonded over mutual passions including “feminism and dry white wine”.

Education campaigner Malala Yousafzai was among the guest speakers, and participants include actor Bill Nighy, the band U2 and cast members from Les Miserables

A similar tribute is being held at Glastonbury’s Park Stage, while a charity album of music recorded by bands including Coldplay and Muse at the festival this weekend will be released in Ms Cox’s honour.

On the eve of the events, Mr Cox has said his wife was killed for her political views and promised to continue to fight to ensure her political legacy is remembered.

In an emotional first interview since Mrs Cox was killed, Mr Cox said her strong opinions had led to her attack.

The charity worker said the Batley-born MP, who was in favour of remaining in the EU, had raised concerns many times about the increasing polarisation of politics around the world, from across the political spectrum.

He said: “I think she was very worried that the language was coarsening, that people were being driven to take more extreme positions, that people didn’t work with each other as individuals and on issues, it was all much too tribal and unthinking.”

Asked by the BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg about people using her death within the public discussion, he said: “She was a politician and she had very strong political views and I believe she was killed because of those views.

“I think she died because of them, and she would want to stand up for those in death as much as she did in life.

“I don’t want people ascribing views to her she didn’t have, but I certainly want to continue to fight for the legacy and the politics and the views that she espoused.”

He said a fitting tribute to his wife would be that the next MP for Batley and Spen is a woman. If elected, she would become the 100th female Labour MP.

He said: “Jo was a passionate feminist who actively campaigned to get more women into Parliament. I think she would have been very annoyed with me that if I had decided that when an angry man kills a young female MP that she would be replaced by another man.”

He said Jo loved her job as an MP, representing the area where she grew up with her dad Gordon, mother Jean and sister Kim.

He said: “She struggled with some elements of being an MP.

“She hated the polarisation but actually she loved the job because it enabled her to make a difference at an international and national level.

“One of the things that she loved was just talking to people who had issues and helping them, whether that was with their drains or their autistic child not getting a referral. She just liked helping.

“Every time she did a constituency surgery she missed the train because she wanted to help her constituents on a very human level.”

Family and friends will pay tribute to her by floating a flower-laden dingy up the Thames today.

It will travel from the mooring where she lived on a houseboat with her family near Wapping.

Mr Cox said: “I also hope it will bring people together.”

He added: “The public reaction has been off the scale.

“What the public support and outpouring of support and love around this does, is, it also helps the children see that what they are feeling, other people are feeling.

“That the grief that they feel isn’t abnormal.”

• Thomas Mair, 52, from Birstall, has appeared at the Old Bailey charged with murdering Mrs Cox, grievous bodily harm against Mr Kenny, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of a knife.