UK Politics

MPs could mix together for Jo Cox tributes

Commons chamber Image copyright PA

Commons leader Chris Grayling has backed the idea of MPs from different parties sitting together as they pay tribute to Jo Cox.

Parliament is being recalled on Monday after the killing of the Labour MP in her constituency on Thursday.

Instead of taking their seats along normal party lines rival MPs could be spread around the chamber.

Mr Grayling told the BBC: "If people want to do that I would completely support them in doing that."

Speaking on BBC 5 live's Pienaar's Politics he said: "It's a memorial occasion. When we all gather tomorrow to pay our respects conventional party politics should be miles away.

"People often don't recognise there are genuinely good relationships across parties.

"Members of Parliament across the entire chamber feel a genuine sense of deep grief about what's happened."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Labour MP Jo Cox died after the attack in her constituency in Birstall
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Members of the public pay their respects in Parliament Square

MPs are free to sit where they want in the Commons chamber but convention dictates that they sit together in party groupings, with the government MPs on one side facing the opposition parties on the other.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was considering allowing Labour MPs to sit with colleagues from rival parties.

"I received that suggestion last night," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. "We're thinking about that."

He added: "An MP dies and it is an attack on all of us. In her memory we have to create a more tolerant society."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said sitting with other parties was a "great idea" and would show that MPs were "united against hate".

Labour MP Jason McCartney, whose Colne Valley constituency borders Mrs Cox's Batley and Spen seat, has written to Speaker John Bercow requesting that backbenchers be permitted to sit together across the House in a mark of solidarity.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn laid flowers in tribute to Jo Cox in her constituency of Batley and Spen

There have also been calls for a memorial at Westminster to Mrs Cox.

Chris Grayling said: "It has been the tradition that when an MP has lost their lives in the course of their duties they have been commemorated by a shield on the walls of the House of Commons chamber.

"That is something, it's obviously what her family wishes, but is certainly something that should be considered.

"All of us want to recognise that it is a terrible, terrible event. What she did in her short time as MP in parliament, but also what she stood for in terms of free speech and democracy.

"But the conventional way is in the House of Commons chamber and that is something that I would want to discuss."

Mrs Cox is the first sitting MP to be killed since Conservative Ian Gow was blown up by the IRA in 1990, the last in a string of politicians to be murdered by Northern Irish terror groups.

Thomas Mair, 52, from Birstall, faces charges of murder, grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon in connection with the attack on Mrs Cox.

The defendant refused to give his correct name and did not reply when asked to confirm his address and date of birth at an appearance at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Saturday.

He did not enter a plea and is next due to appear for a bail application hearing at the Old Bailey on Monday.

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