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Widower leads tributes to Jo Cox on her birthday

Published 22/06/2016

The widower of assassinated MP Jo Cox led the tributes as thousands of people across the country and around the world paused to reflect on a politician and campaigner who "just wanted people to be happy".

Brendan Cox appeared moved as he addressed hundreds of people in London's Trafalgar Square - gathered to mark the late MP's 42nd birthday - which featured readings by actors Bill Nighy and Gillian Anderson, a moving speech from education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, and a personal message from U2's Bono.

And in mother-of-two Mrs Cox's home town of Batley in Yorkshire, her younger sister Kim Leadbeater spoke of her "caring, compassionate and inspirational" sibling.

Similar #MoreInCommon events - a reference to Mrs Cox's maiden speech in the Commons last year - were held in Dublin, Brussels, and at Glastonbury festival.

Mr Cox, who paused to compose himself during his eight-minute speech, said: "Thank you for the love that you have poured on our family since our world collapsed on Thursday.

"Thank you to Jo's amazing friends, and friends of friends, and even complete strangers who have managed, despite your own grief, to organise all of this in less than a week.

"As amazing and deeply touching as all of this is, I wish I wasn't here today. Not because I'm ungrateful to the organisers and you all for coming, but because of course I'd rather be with Jo.

"But I wanted to come and show my gratitude and that of all of our family.

"Your support and love has helped us all and I wanted our children to see what their mum meant to all of you. I know that they will remember today."

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.

Sat close to his three-year-old daughter Lejla, who was wearing a life jacket, Mr Cox looked ahead as the vessel passed under the Millennium footbridge heading west towards Westminster.

The events were held to mark what would have been Mrs Cox's 42nd birthday. The crowd at Trafalgar Square burst into a round of impromptu applause when they were told Bernard Kenny - the man who tried to save the MP when she was stabbed and shot i n Birstall, near Leeds, last week - was also marking his 78th birthday.

Those on the stage in Trafalgar Square 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, Mrs Cox's friend and television presenter Mariella Frostrup said the pair bonded over mutual passions including "feminism and dry white wine".

But there were disgruntled murmurs from the crowd as a plane carrying a banner supporting the Brexit campaign was flown over the memorial. Aeroplane firm Britten-Norman later apologised for the timing and said the flyover was "a private one and was not sanctioned by the official Vote Leave campaign".

The flyover came just after pop star Lily Allen made a rare public appearance to sing Somewhere Only We Know in tribute to Mrs Cox, while Bono also recorded a message for the former Oxfam campaigner, with whom he had worked.

And there was a poignant moment when those gathered to pay tribute were asked to hold hands with the person next to them and hold them aloft in defiance of hatred, while members of the crowd wept when children from her five-year-old son Cuillin's school sang If I Had A Hammer.

Speaking in her sister's home town, Ms Leadbeater told the crowds: "From Batley to Burma and from the Spen Valley to Syria, Jo's life was centred around helping people and standing up for the causes she felt passionate about - and there were many."

At Portobello Beach in Edinburgh, friends of Mrs Cox gathered to celebrate her life.

Her photo was placed on the sand next to 300 candles arranged into the words "More In Common".

Kim Wallace, a friend and former colleague of Mrs Cox and her husband, said: "Today's event is about a show of love. I wanted people in Edinburgh to have a chance to voice that they believe in Jo's values, to show we care about what happened to her and that we care about each other."

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