MPs paid emotional tributes to their late colleague Jo Cox watched by her family, as debate continued to rage over the tone of rhetoric on immigration in the EU referendum.
The late Labour MPs young children – Leija, three, and Cuillin, five, – were in the public gallery of the House of Commons to hear their mother described by the Prime Minister as “a loving, determined, passionate and progressive politician who epitomised the best of humanity”.
MPs wore white roses in memory of Yorkshire-born Mrs Cox, and there were two roses placed on the bench where she usually sat – one white, one red for the Labour Party. Speaking in parliament – which is in recess for the EU referendum but was recalled to remember Mrs Cox – Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said society had “lost one of our very best, adding that politicians had a responsibility “not to whip up hatred or sow division”.
There was also a powerful appeal for a more tolerant politics to be “the shining light of her legacy” from Stephen Kinnock, who shared a Commons office with Mrs Cox, killed in in her constituency last week.
Mr Kinnock condemned a Ukip poster unveiled by Nigel Farage, depicting a column of refugees with the message “Breaking point”, as representing “the politics of division and fear”, and drew a link between the rhetoric around immigration and Mrs Cox’s death.
He said: “I can only imagine Jo’s reaction if she had seen the poster unveiled hours before her death.
“She would have responded with outrage, and with a robust rejection of the calculated narrative of cynicism, division and despair that it represents.”
Mr Kinnock added: “When insecurity, fear and anger are used to light a fuse, then an explosion is inevitable.”
Mrs Cox’s husband, Brendan, sat next to his children along with Mrs Cox’s parents Jean and Gordon Leadbeater, sister and other family members.
Mrs Cox’s sister Kim Leadbeater has told how the ongoing public support it had “genuinely made a difference” and helped the family through some “dark times”.
There have also been calls for a memorial to be installed at Westminster to remember her, while a fund set up in her name has raised almost £1 million.
Labour MP Rachel Reeves, a close friend of Mrs Cox, broke down as she ended her tribute saying “no-one can replace a mother”.
Mrs Cox, who was aged 41, was called “exceptional” by the Tory Andrew Mitchell, and SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford, who worked for charity Oxfam at the same time as the murdered MP, said she was “inspired and inspiring”.
Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield, said “to have a girl like Jo you need a wonderful, supportive family”, and their grace was in evidence.
With every offer of condolence, her father Gordon silently mouthed “thank you”, and when the entire house broke with convention to give Mrs Cox a standing ovation, her family directed their applause at MPs.
After the House was adjourned, MPs processed across the road to St Margaret’s – often referred to as the Commons’ parish church – for a service of prayer and remembrance in Mrs Cox’s memory.
As members gathered in the Commons, Thomas Mair, the 52 year-old charged with murdering Mrs Cox, was appearing by video link at the Old Bailey. Asked to confirm if he was Thomas Mair, he said, “Yes, I am.”
Mr Farage earlier accused Remain campaigners of a “despicable” attempt to use Mrs Cox’s death to boost their chances in the referendum.