Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Jo Cox in her own words

Jo Cox in her own words

Before becoming an MP, the 41-year-old worked for Oxfam and also closely with Gordon Brown’s wife Sarah on preventing mothers and babies dying during pregnancy.

Asked what’s the one thing you would change about UK politics if you could? She replied: “A more consensus style of politics looking at problems and getting the best brains involved in them to find solutions.”

As she was a passionate campaigner for “Remain”, I have selected a picture which both illustrates that and shows that, in her own words, “While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”. This picture sums up the unity and the diversity in her constituency.

I knew nothing of her before her death, but having read what she said, and what she did, I can see why she was so beloved by her constituents, and her loss keenly felt by her fellow parliamentarians.

Gavin Ashenden, writing in the JEP recently, said how it was a shame that people used Jo Cox’s murder as a means of scoring points, although he then proceeded to do precisely that. Instead, I am content to let her words speak for herself.

On Community and Diversity (2016)
Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages. Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir.

While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

On Migrant Children (2016)
We all know that the vast majority of the terrified, friendless and profoundly vulnerable child refugees scattered across Europe tonight came from Syria. We also know that, as that conflict enters its sixth barbaric year, desperate Syrian families are being forced to make an impossible decision: stay and face starvation, rape, persecution and death, or make a perilous journey to find sanctuary elsewhere.

Who can blame desperate parents for wanting to escape the horror that their families are experiencing? Children are being killed on their way to school, children as young as seven are being forcefully recruited to the frontline and one in three children have grown up knowing nothing but fear and war. Those children have been exposed to things no child should ever witness, and I know I would risk life and limb to get my two precious babies out of that hellhole.

I am deeply proud of the Government for leading the way internationally on providing humanitarian support to Syrian civilians. Their commitment in terms of finances and policy to help people in the region, and across the Middle East and North Africa, will save lives.

However, in the chaos caused by the Syrian conflict and many other conflicts, many thousands of already deeply scarred children have become separated from their parents and carers, and they are already in Europe. The Government’s generosity to date has not extended to those vulnerable children.

Given what we know about the horror that many of the refugee children in Europe have fled, isn’t it time to end the government’s shameful refusal to give 3,000 unaccompanied children sanctuary here in the U.K.?

On the Fear of Immigrants (2016)
Let me be clear from the start: it’s fine to be concerned about immigration – many people are. This doesn’t mean to say they are racist or xenophobic – they are simply concerned about pressures on GP surgeries or schools, or how once familiar town centres are changing, or whether they’ll be able to compete with migrant workers to get a job.

Most people recognise that there are positive sides of migration too. Whether it is providing the skilled workers we need for our economy, or the amazing doctors and nurses from abroad who help run our health service, the UK has reaped the benefits from immigration.

It is right and fair that people who come to Britain pay something into the welfare system before they can take something out.

That’s why Labour has long pushed for an end to the payment of benefits to people who don’t live permanently in this country, and for a major extension of the time EU migrants have to wait before being able to claim benefits – a commitment now secured by the Prime Minister as part of the renegotiation deal.

On Preventing Mothers and Babies in the Third World dying during pregnancy (from 2010)
Global leaders pledged action and new research confirmed that the number of women dying in childbirth is at long last declining – by as much as a third in parts of the world. Why? It’s clear that more skilled midwives, more investment and more education for girls are having a major impact in saving lives.

Yet we still have a long way to go in preventing hundreds of thousands of women and their babies dying needlessly each year – and we still have to make sure that the promises made this year are firmed up, increased and delivered. With other big issues now emerging on the global health agenda, we must keep up the pressure to make sure that women and children will not be relegated to the sidelines.

This means that our diverse but united global movement needs to keep conveying the message that saving the lives of mothers and their children is neither complicated nor beyond our means, that almost all deaths in childbirth are preventable, and that progress is being made, even in some of the world’s toughest places.

We must also win the debate to keep girls and women at the heart of a more integrated health system, especially in rural areas. It is also time for maternal health experts to take more of a lead in the debate about the Global Fund for HIV, TB and malaria’s future role on reducing maternal mortality, and to find ways to make health care free or low cost for the pregnant women and children who are still dying for a lack of a little money.

We must also work to make sure that 100 million more women get the contraceptives they want and need, that pregnant women and newborns get critically important nutrition, and we should join forces with the Elders in their drive to end child marriage.

On Autism
Children are waiting on average more than three years for an Autism diagnosis. Without a diagnosis funding and support for children does not materialise. It is really important to underline the scale of this problem, and the consequences of it.

You only have to meet a handful of parents to realise the unbelievable pressures these waiting times put them under. Diagnosis is a critical milestone for people on the spectrum.

It helps individuals take control of their lives and can unlock access to essen1tial support and services. It can be just as important for parents, family members and friends, enabling them to better understand what is happening to their loved ones.

On Syria
Whereas Iraq has become the great example of what happens when you deploy force with no follow-up strategy. Syria will become the great counter example of what happens when you decide to disengage with no strategy whatsoever.

On Syria both President Obama and the prime minister have been a huge disappointment. Both men made the biggest misjudgement of their time in office when they put Syria on the “too difficult” pile and instead of engaging fully, withdrew and put their faith in a policy of containment.

This judgment – made by both leaders for different reasons – will be judged harshly by history. And the failure of their strategy has had huge repercussions: the biggest refugee crisis in Europe in a generation, the emergence of Isis and all that has followed, the strengthening of a resurgent Russia and most importantly the human suffering that continues unabated for the people of Syria.

On her experience with Aid Organisations
I was an aid worker for a decade and then worked in the voluntary sector in the UK on UK child poverty and with the NSPCC and Save the Children. But I had worked for ten years with Oxfam. I’ve lived and worked in Brussels and New York at the UN and worked all over the world. I would jump on a plane and be in Kabul one work and then Dafur the next.

I’ve been in some horrific situations where women have been raped repeatedly in Darfur, I’ve been with child soldiers who have been given Kalashnikov and kill members of their own family in Uganda. In Afghanistan I was talking to Afghan elders who were world weary of a lack of sustained attention from their own Government and from the international community to stop problems early. That’s the thing that all of that experience gave me - if you ignore a problem it gets worse.

On Working Together with Other Parties
I’m Labour to the core and always have been and always will be but actually on some issues they are above party politics and I think we can get caught up in that and fail to do the right thing. Issues like foreign policy or the crisis in care or climate change. I almost want the brightest and the best from all parties to sort this out and that’s the sort of politician I am. That’s not to say there aren’t really serious principled differences on issues like the economy or welfare reform where politics comes into it, but rising above that is a really good thing.

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