A government minister fought back tears as she paid tribute to the murdered MP Jo Cox in the House of Commons.
Tracey Crouch, the minister for loneliness, on Monday made a speech about the Government’s flagship new loneliness strategy, and admitted it was an “emotional statement” to make.
With her voice shaking, clearly struggling not to cry, she said: “I’m standing here at the despatch box with a clear line of sight to the coat of arms representing our colleague who took this issue of loneliness and catapulted it into the stratosphere.”
Crouch said: “I’ve dedicated a short nine months to developing this strategy but Jo Cox dedicated her whole life to tackling loneliness.”
As Cox’s mother and father – Jean and Gordon Leadbeater – along with her sister Kim watched on from the public gallery, she added: “This strategy, which bears her photo, a copy of which I’ve kept aside for Jo’s children, is dedicated to her and I hope she would be proud.”
The government decided to act after the publication earlier this year of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, a detailed study into the scale and extent of the problem.
Labour MP Cox, who had begun the work after she personally experienced loneliness following the birth of her first child, was brutally murdered by a right-wing extremist in 2016 during the UK’s Brexit referendum campaign.
The Commission set up in her name was intended as a lasting legacy of the power of politics to unite, rather than divide, communities.
After taking a deep breath to collect herself, Crouch said the commission had been set up with a “vision to carry on her important work”, and that Theresa May had welcomed its recommendations, including the appointment of a cross government ministerial advocate on loneliness.
Crouch said she was “humbled” to be offered the role.
She thanked the MPs Seema Kennedy and Rachel Reeves, who were co-chairs of the commission, for their “dedication and passion”, and said she was personally grateful for their “cross party support”.
Crouch said the government was committed to tackling the issue of loneliness, which May called one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.
As part of the Government’s first ever strategy on loneliness, released on Monday, doctors in England will be able to refer lonely patients to community activities and voluntary services by 2023 – otherwise known as ‘social prescribing’.
The strategy will also see various UK companies trialling schemes aimed at tackling loneliness with a view to boosting employee wellbeing.
It also highlights the importance of individuals helping to tackle the issue in their own communities.