This is a transcript of a speech delivered by Andrew Mitchell in the House of Commons this afternoon.
Today we mourn the terrible loss of our friend and colleague Jo, so tragically murdered as she went about her constituency duties last Thursday. The life has been taken of a truly exceptional woman, whose goodness and passionate dedication to humanitarian values has inspired us all. I knew her as a friend, but how unbearable must it be for those who mourn her as a daughter, sister, husband and, above all, as their beloved mum, whom they used to visit for tea each week in Portcullis House.
I first met Jo ten years ago in London, when we marched against injustice in Darfur, and on two visits to al-Fashir in Darfur, where she helped develop a central humanitarian role for Oxfam. The Leader of the Opposition, as he then was, and I stayed there with her and other humanitarian workers and witnessed her crucial role for Oxfam in supporting women and children and securing water for thousands of refugees in the El Salam and Abu Shouk camps. She gave me the green wristband—I wear it still—to ensure that we remembered the desperate people caught up in what President Bush rightly described as a genocide. It is among her many friends and colleagues in the international humanitarian and development family all around the world, of which she was such a respected and experienced member, that she will be mourned and remembered as a staunch friend of the most desperate and deprived in our world and as a campaigner against injustice.
When she entered this House just 13 short months ago, she rapidly used her deep knowledge to champion the dispossessed. She was Labour to her fingertips, but restlessly dismissive of party political manoeuvring, which she saw as a barrier to progress. Making common cause with a crusty old Tory, she and I became co-chairs of the all-party Friends of Syria.
And she was brave: her energy and effectiveness were an inspiration. We invited ourselves to tea with the Russian ambassador in his London residence. With clever charm but steely determination, this five-foot bundle of old-fashioned Yorkshire common sense dressed him down for his country’s cruelty and cynicism in Syria. I do not believe the Russian ambassador will easily forget that visit.
I think there are many things Jo would want us to remember this afternoon. May I mention just two? I do not believe she would want this vile and unspeakable act to change the open and accessible relationship we enjoy with our constituents. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] All of us take the advice of our local police in protecting those who work with and support us. Thankfully, the record shows these attacks are as infrequent as they are disgraceful. Secondly, Jo would want us in this House to redouble our efforts to resolve the greatest catastrophe of our age: the crisis in Syria, where the lives of more than 11 million people have been ruined while the international community has shown itself disorganised, ineffective and supine.
I mourn Jo today as a friend and as a colleague, but most of all I mourn for her as a mother, whose two gorgeous children will now have to chart the shoals and eddies of life without the love and support of their wonderful, lovely mum.