Not enough progress in healing divisions since Jo Cox murder, parents warn

Not enough progress has been made to heal toxic divisions in society, the parents of murdered MP Jo Cox said after the end of a 288-mile charity bike ride marking her legacy.

On Sunday, 40 cyclists aged between 15 and 74 completed the final leg of The Jo Cox Way fundraiser in support of the charity set up by the MP’s family following her death.

The five-day route from her Batley and Spen constituency to central London symbolically marked Ms Cox’s journey from her home to becoming an MP.

She was 41 when she was murdered by a far-right extremist in 2016.

Finishing the fourth annual ride, Ms Cox’s sister Kim Leadbeater led the cyclists across the finish line where they were greeted by her parents Gordon and Jean Leadbeater.

Jo Cox Way charity cycle
The sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, Kim Leadbeater, (second right) leads cyclists to the finish line (Jonathan Brady/PA)

After setting off from West Yorkshire on Wednesday, the group of cyclists faced two days of “particularly ridiculous” weather due to the record-breaking heatwave which swept the country on Thursday.

The heat worsened the existing challenges of the route which included 6,000ft of climbing on the first day.

As well as winding through many towns and villages, the pack of cyclists had overnight stops in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Buckinghamshire and Middlesex.

The 288-mile ride was taken in stages over the five days, accompanied by three vans to support the mixture of experienced and non-experienced cyclists.

Celebrating the end of the epic journey, Ms Cox’s family said the divisions in society that were highlighted after the MP’s murder have increased despite lip-service from many politicians at the time.

Miss Leadbeater said: “In the last three years things have got progressively worse and the toxicity of the discourse in public life and the anger and frustration across the country has definitely got worse.

Jo Cox Way charity cycle
The five-day cycle from Yorkshire was in aid of the Jo Cox Way charity (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“That makes rides like this and activities like this even more important.

“We all want the same things, we all want to live a happy life and in the middle of the chaos that surrounds the country at the moment, it’s very easy to forget that.

“The connections we make on a human level are really important and that’s what we try to do through the Jo Cox Foundation.”

Ms Cox’s parents urged politicians to think before they speak in a way that could divide the country further.

Mr Leadbeater said: “After Jo’s murder a lot of people spoke the right words about it was time to heal some of the divisions in the community.

“Sadly I don’t think we’ve seen a lot of progress and there are one or two individuals in all areas of the spectrum who seem to be making things worse.

“No one disagrees with what Jo stood for – more in common, treating one another with respect.

“We look at her more in common plaque in Parliament and sometimes wish these individuals would turn around and look at that before they open their mouths.”

Jo Cox Way charity cycle
Kim Leadbeater has called for politicians to think before they speak (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The ride raised more than £7,000 from a target of £10,000, with organisers hoping that more donations will arrive in the coming days.

Ms Cox’s parents said the charity ride was one way in which they were committed to leaving a legacy for their daughter’s young children.

“It would have been easy for us to sit at home and pull the curtains but that is not what Jo would have wanted,” her father said.

“Quite clearly she would have said ‘get out there, I’ve set one or two balls rolling but build on that for yourselves’ and think about the future for her children.”

Sunday’s event was supported by one of Ms Cox’s Labour colleagues, Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle.

He said: “This event is an extension of the positivity that is Jo’s legacy and as people are continuing to raise funds and want to show that we are a better society when we celebrate all we have in common.

“We have a really volatile national situation and I think the country is at a crossroads and is still deeply divided after the referendum.

“Anything that helps bring people together through Jo’s legacy is really important and we don’t celebrate when it happens enough. Government, in particular, doesn’t invest in that social cohesion.”

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