Jo Cox Square Opening in Brussels

September 27th 2018, the sun is out and it’s warm once again after days of cold and rain in central Brussels. Rainbows splatter walls, murals, and road crossings along Ancienne Belgique, the large Concert hall that sits upon Brussell’s LGBTQ District. A large crowd gathered to remember and praise Jo Cox on this vibrant Belgian square which the City of Brussels is naming after the late British MP for Batley on Spen.

Jo Cox lived and breathed the streets of Brussels for six years, first as political assistant to Glenys Kinnock MEP and later as a lobbyist for Oxfam. Cox later went on to defend the European Project during the long political battle that was the 2016 EU Referendum. Two years ago, Cox sailed along the Thames with her family proudly flying an “IN” flag up against the pro-Brexit Flotilla. This was one of the more jovial and surreal moments of the referendum campaign. The next day Jo was assassinated by a Neo-Nazi terrorist, set on sowing hate.

Do you remember where you were when you found out Jo Cox had been murdered? I was at the University of York, where I was due to be in the audience on BBC Question Time. “The show is cancelled I’m afraid,” said the producer, “An MP has been shot”.

The political toxicity that led to Jo Cox’s assassination had not been seen in the United Kingdom since the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. ‘A lot of people hoped that the violent assassination… on the streets where she grew up would have a profound impact on the political discourse. however two years on I’m sadly not at all sure this is the case’ said Kim Leadbeater, sister of Jo Cox in front of the large crowd. The vindicated far-right have been emboldened by the Conservatives and Labour’s growing acceptance of their worldview. Jo Cox, conversely, ensured the political establishment called out extremist violence during her time as MP.

Here in Brussels, thinking of Jo Cox, it feels appropriate to mourn. I certainly did two years ago. But we should remember Jo Cox, not just through tears, but in our actions In the ceremony, Jeremy Corbyn, said on behalf of the Labour Party ‘We are mourning her today, but in her name let’s build a better world….’. Speaking on behalf of the Party of European Socialists Udo Bullmann MEP, added that the best way to do this is by defending the courageous and tolerant values that Jo Cox stood for. Whether through tackling the “epidemic of loneliness” caused by millions of Britons’ social isolation, or her recognition that within her constituency “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.

Bruxellois should be privileged to find Jo Cox protecting ourselves as we revel queerly into the night along Place Jo Cox. The square will carry its namesake’s legacy of friendship, tolerance, and pride in diversity. The heart of the European democracy is united and strengthened in its difference, not without its opponents. Let’s demand for a better world, and boldly defend the open, tolerant, fair United Kingdom that we aspire to be citizens of.


* Huw James is a Councillor in North Somerset and a Board Member of Alliance Homes, a Housing Association based in the West of England.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Sep '18 - 1:28am

    Thanks for the piece.

    A great lady who I had started to come to admire a lot, before she left this world in so horrible an attack.

    A fine tribute.

    The day it happened I remember, but shall never forget the instinct my wife and I had , to go to Westminster , with flowers and a card, we did so that week twice.

    It was a poignant remembrance as is anything we can do to keep her efforts alive and spirit vibrant.

  • Jayne Mansfield 29th Sep '18 - 9:49am

    I am so pleased that Jo Cox is to be commemorated in this way.

    The two memories that I have, are not so much where I was when I heard the news, but the selflessness and bravery of Jo Cox herself as she was attacked, and that of former miner, the late Bernard Kenny.

    Jo Cox’s words to her assistants to escape and leave her to her fate so that only she was hurt and not them, and Bernard Kenny’s brave intervention will always remain with me.

    When one despairs of the behaviour of some, it is right to be constantly reminded of the best of humanity, the heroism and selflessness of this brave, slightly built woman and that of the heroic pensioner who also put the safety of others before that of himself.

    I hope that the naming of the square gives some comfort to the family of Jo Cox , and to the family of the late Mr Kenny. It will be a constant reminder of the best and worst of humanity, they being representatives of the best.

  • Where was Brendan?

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