By ALISON BELLAMY
There were emotional scenes as the market town of Batley, in West Yorkshire, held a memorial event to murdered MP Jo Cox.
The event, which lasted for an hour on Wednesday was attended by hundreds of people, as well as a large media presence.
A minute’s silence was held on what would have been Jo’s 42nd birthday.
The event was held at the same time as other memorials worldwide including in London, Beirut, Brussels, Melbourne, Nairobi, New York and Washington in tribute to mother-of-two Mrs Cox, whose constituency was Batley and Spen Valley.
Education campaigner Malala Yousafzai was among the guest speakers at the hour-long #MoreInCommon rally in London’s Trafalgar Square, which the Labour politician’s husband Brendan and their children – three-year-old daughter Lejla and son Cuillin, five, attended.
The events have been called #MoreInCommon, which is written with a hashtag as it is used on social media, and refers to the words from the 41-year-old’s maiden speech when she first became an MP.
Batley Community Choir and Norristhorpe School Choir sang to the crowds and speeches were made by pupils from Upper Batley High School including Mohammed Raja and Bilal Khan.
Year 7 pupil Bilal told the crowd how Jo ‘shone brightly’ and how she had ‘helped Batley and its people’ as well as the rest of the world. He said: “This day would have been her birthday, but unfortunately such a tragic loss means she cannot be here. Jo was outstanding.”
Jo’s sister Kim Leadbeater spoke and thanked the public for their support at a difficult time. She said: “We would like to ask people to do something in memory of Jo. Just take part in a moment of action, think of an action to make a difference.” Cards were handed out with an image of Jo on them, urging people to #LoveLikeJo.
In the crowd Assiya Tag, Miriam Tag and Saniya Tag, attended. Assiya said: “Jo Cox was an inspiration. I met her when I went to vote last year. I’m here to show my respect for her. It is just so very sad.”
A group of around 30 attended from 1st Heckmondwike Scouts. Hawa Maniyar, Beaver Scouts leader, said: “Jo Cox was the District president of the Heavy Wollen District Scouts. We all think that within just a year she achieved so much for the public. I know she had visited almost every school in the constituency apart from about 6 or 7. She was truly amazing. We are all here to pay our respects to Jo. It is a good atmosphere and the weather is great.”
Aafaq Butt, of Batley, who had helped out at election time as an assistant for Jo, said: “I am here in memory of Jo and out of great respect for her. From an Asian perspective she knew exactly what the concerns were and she was the kind of person to put plans into action and help people and get things done, which is rare. She knew about everything, for example if I mentioned the Kashmir situation, she would know all about it.
“She was a dynamo, and one of the most clever and most intellectual people I ever met.”
Pharmacist Farkhandah Faraz said: “I am here in memory of Jo to show my respect. I met her at an event at Batley Library with our children and she was just so lovely. She was just an amazing person, willing to help anyone. It is tragic and so sad. It has been nice here today to pay our respects to her.”
Kay Faraz, a teacher, said: “The one thing this event goes to show is that we can unite as a community. This has brought people together, and there is so much love and compassion, it is brilliant. It should not take a death for this to happen.”
Hawa Kayat said her children, aged ten and three, had made a home-made banner to
show their support for the #MoreInCommon theme of the event. “We have had a great time in celebration of Jo. It is tragic.”
An event is taking place on Saturday June 25, from 2-4pm, at Batley Town Hall, in Jo’s memory, organised by Councillor Marielle O’Neill and Batley Smile.
Coun O’Neill (Lab, Batley West) said: “We are inviting people to come and sit down and have a cuppa and talk to each other about the loss of our beloved MP, Jo Cox. We will show the world that, in Jo’s words, we have more in common than the things that divide us. Batley and Spen is a strong community and we won’t let hate and bigotry divide us.”