The sister of murdered MP Jo Cox today spoke of her difficult experiences as a teenager as she launched a cross-party commission to tackle loneliness in the UK.
The Labour MP had started work on setting up the commission before she was killed by right-wing extremist Thomas Mair in her constituency of Batley and Spen in June.
Speaking at the launch of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness in Westminster, Kim Leadbeater said: “When Jo went away to university it was a very difficult time for both of us.
“And I think it would be fair to say that we both experienced loneliness: Jo down in Cambridge and me up in Yorkshire.”
The commission will work with 13 organisations and charities including Age UK and Action for Children to produce ideas for change. It is led by Tory MP Seema Kennedy and Labour’s MP Rachel Reeves.
During her speech, Leadbeater spoke of her own experiences of loneliness while the two sisters were separated.
“We would talk late at night about how much we missed each other. I would write poetry to express my thoughts and feelings,” she said.
“Having been so very close all our young lives it was hard to be apart, and there were times where it was not easy.
“Loneliness can affect anyone at any time in their lives, whether it’s teenagers trying to find their place in the world, someone caring for a sick relative, a new parent coping with the pressures of becoming a mother or father for the first time, an elderly person who has lost family and friends over the years, or indeed anyone experiencing bereavement.
“Loneliness transcends age, gender, race, religion, class, and party politics. It’s something we can all tackle together as a society. To create cohesive communities and positive relationships, and of course to make Jo proud.”
Kennedy said Cox had been “determined to shine a spotlight on how loneliness affects people of all ages”.
“If you are chronically lonely, it is as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. You might have an increased risk of high blood pressure,” she said.