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Jo Cox's young children hear MPs pay emotional tributes in Commons

Published 20/06/2016

A white and red rose lie on Jo Cox's empty seat in the House of Commons, London, as MPs gather to pay tribute to her. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 20, 2016. See PA story POLITICS MP. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
A white and red rose lie on Jo Cox's empty seat in the House of Commons, London, as MPs gather to pay tribute to her. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 20, 2016. See PA story POLITICS MP. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
The killing of Jo Cox in her West Yorkshire constituency has prompted an out-pouring of public grief

The young children of Labour MP Jo Cox came to the House of Commons to hear emotional tributes to their mother as Parliament was recalled to pay its respects four days after her death in a street attack in her West Yorkshire constituency.

Three-year-old daughter Lejla sat on her father Brendan's lap, while son Cuillin, five, snuggled up to his grandmother in the gallery overlooking the chamber of the Commons.

They heard Prime Minister David Cameron praise their mother as "a voice of compassion whose irrepressible spirit and boundless energy lit up the lives of all who knew her", while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that, with her death, British society had lost "one of our very best".

Labour's Rachel Reeves, whose constituency of Leeds West is just a few miles away from Mrs Cox's, broke down in tears as she remembered her friend of ten years.

She told the Commons: "Batley and Spen will go on to elect a new MP, but no one can replace a mother."

MPs wore white roses in memory of Yorkshire-born Mrs Cox, and a single white rose was placed on the green leather bench where she usually sat.

Also in the gallery were Mrs Cox's parents Jean and Gordon and her sister Kim, who wiped away a tear and smiled as fellow Yorkshire MP Holly Lynch fondly recalled how her friend had quickly made her name in the Commons as an MP who was not easy to be whipped. With them were Mrs Cox's close friend - and the best woman at her wedding - TV producer Sarah Hamilton, Brendan's best man Will Paxton, and Mr Cox's parents and sister.

Several MPs wept as Speaker John Bercow told them that the House was meeting in "heartbreaking sadness" and "heartfelt solidarity" to pay tribute to the Batley and Spen MP, who was elected only last year.

They took the unusual step of rising to give Mrs Cox a standing ovation as the hour-long tribute drew to an end. But a proposal for MPs of different parties to show solidarity by sitting alongside one another appeared to have won over few members, with a large majority remaining in their usual places.

After the House was adjourned, MPs processed together across the road to St Margaret's - often referred to as the House of Commons' parish church - for a service of prayer and remembrance in Mrs Cox's memory.

MPs from all parties sat side by side in solidarity to remember the MP who was described as a "prophet" by Commons chaplain Rose Hudson-Wilkin.

She said: "As we gather now to remember Jo, we must not allow the way she died to take precedence over the way she lived."

MPs sung passionately and listened to heartfelt prayers and tributes from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Mr Bercow and Baroness Kinnock, a close friend of Mrs Cox.

The killing of the 41-year-old mother of two outside the public library in Birstall in her West Yorkshire constituency has prompted an outpouring of public grief and shaken Parliament, which was in recess for the upcoming EU referendum.

Mr Bercow said the killing - "in this manner, of this person, our democratically elected colleague" - was "particularly shocking and repugnant".

He hailed her as "caring, eloquent, principled and wise (and) ... filled with and fuelled by love for humanity - devoted to her family and a relentless campaigner for equality, human rights and social justice".

Her death "strikes not only at an individual but at our freedom", said Mr Bercow.

In total silence, Mr Corbyn told MPs: "We have lost one of our own and our society has lost one of our very best."

He added: "The horrific act that took her from us was an attack on democracy, and our whole country has been shocked and saddened by it.

"But in the days since, the country has also learnt something of the extraordinary humanity and compassion which drove her political activism and beliefs ... Today we remember Jo's compassion and a passion to create a better world and in her honour we recommit ourselves to that task."

Mr Cameron said he wanted to "pay tribute to a loving, determined, passionate and progressive politician who epitomised the best of humanity and who proved so often the power of politics to make our world a better place".

Recalling first meeting the former aid worker in Darfur in 2006, he said she was "a humanitarian to her core - a passionate and brilliant campaigner whose grit and determination to fight for justice saw her time and time again driving issues up the agenda and making people listen and above all act".

Wednesday, which would have marked Mrs Cox's 42nd birthday, would see a global celebration of her life and values, said the PM.

He added: "May we and the generations of members that follow us in this House honour Jo's memory by proving that the democracy and freedoms Jo stood for are indeed unbreakable, by continuing to stand up for our constituents and by uniting against the hatred that killed her today and for evermore."

Both Mr Corbyn and Mr Cameron also paid tribute to the bravery of pensioner Bernard Kenny, 77, who remains in hospital after he was injured as he came to Mrs Cox's aid.

Shortly before MPs gathered, Thomas Mair, 52, from Birstall, 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.

Following the tributes, Mr Cox tweeted: "Thank you to the whole House& staff for your kindness& compassion to our family today & for describing so well the Jo we love #MoreInCommon".

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