My fearless friend Jo Cox

by Andrew Mitchell

Jo Cox was a force of nature, a five-foot bundle of Yorkshire grit and determination absolutely committed to helping other people.

I first met her shortly after she came into the House of Commons for the first time last year. She came to see me to talk about international development, the issue she’d done so much work on.

She said she wanted to set up a new parliamentary group to talk about Syria and the appalling situation there.

What was so striking about that was that here was a newly-elected Labour MP who had so little time for the petty aspects of party-political life of Westminster.

At the time, her party leadership was against military intervention in Syria and mine was in favour, which meant the atmosphere around the issue was quite heated. But she was completely uninterested in any of that. She just wanted to do the right thing.

A lot people in her situation would have been very reluctant to work with a wicked old Tory like me, but Jo never minded. During Commons debates about Syria, we would sit across the chamber exchanging text messages.

When we set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on Syria, she and I chaired it together, taking evidence from military commanders, diplomats and officials from the region. She might have been new to Westminster, but she led the way.

She was fearless, utterly fearless. Last year, we went to see the Russian ambassador in London, to give him a rollicking about the terrible way his country has behaved in Syria.

He’s a professional diplomat and a pretty tough case. But Jo got the better of him: it was her mixture of charm and steel.

The best word I can think of for her is ballsy. The ambassador just didn’t know what to make of her, and she left him looking quite discomforted.

Her great passion in politics was helping the poorest people in the world.

I have no doubt that if Jo had lived, her talent and determination would have taken her to the Cabinet one day, presumably in development or foreign affairs. She’d have done a great job.

Jo grew up in the constituency she represented, and she was committed to the place and the people. She was Yorkshire through and through.

A vital part of our democracy is that people have full and free access to their MPs. That might sometimes involve an element of risk, but we have to be careful not to overstate that, especially since lots of people in lots of jobs face risks: MPs aren’t a special case.

I first became an MP in 1987 and I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of surgeries and never felt under threat in any of them.

It really is horribly unusual for MPs to be in danger from the public.

And Jo was the last one you would ever have thought would ever be at risk, because she was such a lovely, kind person.

It’s hard to believe that someone so brave and fearless and fun is dead, but the hardest thing to think about is her two lovely little children. They would come in to Portcullis House for tea with their mum, and now she’s gone.

Andrew Mitchell, Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield, was International Development Secretary 2010-12.

The Telegraph, 16 June 2016.