Jo Cox: A jewel in the tarnished crown of our politics

Floral tributes to Jo Cox have been left in Westminster and in Birstall, West Yorkshire, since she was killed on Thursday. Credit: PA

I sat on the 1.35pm Kings Cross to Leeds train thinking it was a journey Jo Cox MP had made, many times.

Friday morning's Parliamentary session done, she'd have headed north towards her beloved Batley & Spen constituency for family, friends, constituency surgery, social and other political events.

I imagined her trawling through her papers, polishing speeches, texting and emailing...this beautiful young woman whose picture, and tragic story, were plastered across the newspapers I had before me.

Credit: Alistair Stewart
Credit: Alistair Stewart

I'd interviewed Jo after the May local elections, which had not been a triumph for her Labour party. She'd been frank, candid, lucid and charismatic.

It was my first encounter with her but I got a flavour of what everyone who'd known her longer already knew. It was her: take it or leave it. Overwhelmingly, people across politics and in her lovely part of West Yorkshire too, took it without question.

It is part of what made her what she was: a jewel in the tarnished crown of our politics.

A few hours before I'd arrived, David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, Hilary Benn and Speaker Bercow had stood in the square in Birstall, made speeches and laid flowers in her memory.

Such a gathering is only seen at State Openings of Parliament or Remembrance at the Centotaph.

That is extraordinary.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA
Credit: PA
Credit: PA

The prime minister, the man who would be Prime Minister and the most senior figure in Jo's beloved House of Commons, had come to pay homage to a parliamentary 'new bee'.

And the Shadow Foreign Secretary, with whom she disagreed publicly over action in Syria, didn't let that stop him paying homage to her.

They'd added their flowers to a precious mound, already building, of bouquets, posies and single stems, laid with love by local folk.

After they'd gone it continued to build.

Pictures, too, of her at her wedding and with Brendan, on the door-stop of Number 10; and candles.

After five, school children came in groups and mums brought toddlers; there were prams aplenty.

Few MPs would command such an unorchestrated display of genuine affection.

Jo was no ordinary MP.

My friend, the senior Labour figure Caroline Flint, stood before the cameras, ready to 'go live'

I smiled, mouthed 'hello', with a supportive smile: she looked grim, with real sadness in her eyes.

The Bishop of Leeds stood waiting to be interviewed, also sad.

Princes of politics and of the Church, here to pay homage to a back-bench parliamentarian.

Credit: Alistair Stewart
Credit: Alistair Stewart

The local folk welcomed us and shared their memories, spoken with warm, simple words.

Many great pieces, not least that by Philip Collins in the Times, have spoken of a tipping point in politics; of the need to cherish and celebrate these men and women who seek to serve and only do so with our electoral agreement.

Their work is in our gift and their gift to us is that work.

But to these people, it was 'our Jo', 'Brendan's wife', mum to those 'poor little ones'.

She'd have done so much more, rising, no doubt, to the dizzying heights of politics.

But, in my view, she'd done so much more, already; she had sought to serve, and she had served and died in that service.

Those that she'd served knew it and were grateful - with flowers, anecdotes and love.

I was proud to have been among them.

Credit: Alistair Stewart
Credit: Alistair Stewart
Credit: Alistair Stewart
Credit: PA
Credit: Alistair Stewart