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British Labour Party Politician Remembers Jo Cox

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In her very first speech to Parliament, Jo Cox talked about the people she represented.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JO COX: And while we celebrate our diversity, the thing that 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 than that which divides us.

SHAPIRO: That was Jo Cox speaking in June of last year. Caroline Flint served in Parliament alongside Jo Cox, and she joins us now. Welcome to the program, and I'm sorry for your loss.

CAROLINE FLINT: Thank you. Thank you very much.

SHAPIRO: As we have heard, this type of incident is very rare in Britain, which must just make it all the more shocking. What went through your mind when you first heard about what had happened?

FLINT: Well, you're right. It's so rare in Britain for, you know, any attacks of these sort of kinds on anybody. And I had been in my own - I'm a Yorkshire MP - and I'd been in my own constituency office that morning and had gone to another engagement and found out through a member of my staff ringing me.

And it just is unbelievable. I mean, for your listeners - if I, you know, explain what it's like for a British MP - we have much smaller constituencies than your congressmen and women. We have around 70,000 electors. And we spend our time often in our constituencies in local libraries like Jo was doing this morning.

We're there for our constituents to come and tell us to take up some problems that they are facing, and they can range from something's gone wrong at the local hospital or they've - you know, all sorts of things, you know, from big problems to very small problems. And Jo was just doing her job, and then this terrible murder took place. And I think all of us are very numb trying to understand why - more than anything just thinking how horrific it must've been for her but also for her family now having to cope with all of this.

SHAPIRO: I know you've just come from a vigil for her. Can you tell us how she was remembered there?

FLINT: The vigil was held at - they had two vigils today - one at the church earlier this evening, but one at St. Peters in Birstall where she was killed. And it was really very quiet. There were prayers and music and talking about Jo's commitment to her constituency.

And again, you know, Jo came from this constituency. Her dad worked in a toothpaste factory. Her mom was a school secretary. Jo used to spend her holidays outside of university working in the factory that her father worked in to help pay a contribution and for her to represent her hometown - was something she was incredibly proud of. And I must say her parents and family must have been, too. So tonight it was just quietly reflecting and taking some time.

And there were people - there were other colleagues from Parliament who are Yorkshire MPs but also people from all over the community and not just people of Christian faith, people from the Muslim community. The local imam from the mosque had come along as well. And I think everyone just wanted to have some quiet time to reflect on Jo and everything that she's contributed in the last year but, much more than that, everything she gave before she came to Parliament as well.

SHAPIRO: Now, as we've heard, this comes at a time of intense political debate over membership in the European Union, and campaigning has been suspended. Do you think this could affect that debate before next week's vote?

FLINT: I don't know. I couldn't speculate on that. I think it was absolutely right that the - you've heard two sides of the debate - the leave and the remain decided to - you know, today they should cancel campaigning. And you know, we have so little information at the moment about, you know, what happened, why this attack that led to Jo's death took place.

But I think - you know, I think in the sort of - you know, the whole campaign has been quite hard fought over the last few weeks. And you know, a lot of things have been said on both sides. But when something like this happens, I think it puts everything in life in perspective. And whatever our differences in terms of politics, we're in a democracy. And I said, Jo was just doing her job today. And it's right that we should reflect on that and put aside our differences.

SHAPIRO: That's British member of Parliament Caroline Flint. Thank you for remembering your friend and colleague with us. And I'm sorry for your loss.

FLINT: Thank you. And can I just say as well, you know, the thoughts of myself and many colleagues are with those who lost their lives in Orlando.

SHAPIRO: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.