The Pembroke alumna has been honoured at an annual lecture following her murder in 2016Gary Knight / Wikimedia Commons

Former politicians Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart spoke at Pembroke’s Jo Cox Memorial lecture on Thursday (23/11).

This was the sixth lecture in the annual lecture series commemorating the life of Jo Cox, the MP who was murdered by a member of the far-right in her constituency of Batley and Spen in 2016. Cox was an alumna of Pembroke College.

Campbell and Stewart, former Labour and Tory grandees respectively, discussed the subject of “agreeing disagreeably,” the theme of their popular podcast, ‘The Rest is Politics’.

The lecture was headed by Kim Leadbeater, Cox’s sister, who is the current Labour MP for Batley and Spen. Campbell and Stewart joined the backbencher at the talk to discuss ‘Collaboration Across Political Divides’.

Leadbeater spoke of the “hard-headed pragmatism” and “deep compassion” her sister had while an MP.

Campbell commemorated Cox’s political legacy by commenting on her ability to cross political divides. Campbell referenced the number of Tory MPs who appeared in obituaries following her death, with Cox having collaborated on many cross-party campaigns.

Rory Stewart joined the conversation virtually. He was keen to analyse the faults of democracy today, with his main point being the lack of “institutional strength” to provide an “attractive alternative to populism.”

He illuminated three major downfalls of democracy, saying that politics today more than ever is about the “political game,” as opposed to a political reality.

He criticised the prioritisation of press releases over quality policy, the creation of short-term solutions, and the “institutional rigidity” which prevents change from within the system.


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The Autumn Statement, announced on Wednesday, was mentioned as an example of politicians failing to engage with reality.

During the lecture both Jeremy Hunt (Tory Chancellor), and Rachel Reeves (Shadow Chancellor) were criticised for allegedly focusing on press coverage rather than “political reality.”

Campbell called for better political education within the country and expressed fears that such negative dialogue in the public sphere may “put decent people off” politics.

Leadbeater honoured her sister by recalling a conversation with the former Labour MP in which she asked: “if good people don’t step up, then what do you end up with?”