Anna Turley, MP for Redcar, had become good friends with Jo Cox who was murdered in her constituency on Thursday. She writes to remember Jo and urge us all to fight against the hate

JO Cox was my friend. She was clever, funny, warm and fearless. She fizzed with energy and ideas. She always had a cheeky grin and a wise word.

She was a terrific MP. In only a year in the job she had made a huge impact from the opposition backbenches, shaping government policy on aid to the dispossessed in Syria and raising the plight of refugee children.

She cared about the world around her as a great constituency MP for the town in which she was born and bred. But she was also as a global citizen – a humanitarian aid campaigner. She was simply someone who wanted to leave the world a better place than she found it and devoted every day to doing that.

The Northern Echo:
Anna Turley, MP for Redcar makes a speech at the Labour Party conference in the Brighton Centre in Brighton, Sussex, in 2015

And she was a mother. What a mother she was. Often skipping away from parliament to cook her little ones' tea and put them to bed before coming back for the evening for the votes. She was totally devoted to her family. My heart breaks for them.

I still can't comprehend her murder. I can't place such brutality, darkness and violence in her presence. She had nothing but warmth and joy and fun surrounding her. She epitomised everything that is good and decent and kind in our society. She achieved more in her 41 years in terms of saving lives and building a better world than most of us can dream of.

Yet politics has felt like a dark and ugly place recently. Like Jo, I was only elected last May and I have become shocked and dismayed by some of the abuse and vitriol directed towards Members of Parliament and their staff. MPs experience death threats, rape threats, direct and specific threats to staff and their homes and families. Every MP will have a story to tell about these. You only have to scroll through social media of high profile, particularly female, MPs to see the horrendous nature of abuse.

The culture and environment of political debate has become so aggressive and hostile and there is a casual angry cynicism towards MPs and their motives. Jo's motives were nothing but pure and decent. Her whole life, as Head of Policy at Oxfam and as an aid worker, show she just wanted to make a difference. And I feel proud that she chose our Parliament and the Labour Party as the way she felt most able to do that.

We don't yet know the details of her death but there is no doubt in my mind that the climate has been building towards a tragedy like this.

We will inevitably see calls for greater security in coming days. Despite the weighty security in Westminster, most MPs have little protection in their constituencies. Yet the right balance must be struck for the sake of our democracy. The best and most important part of our job is to be out in the community. Visible, accessible and in-touch. The visits to schools, local charities and businesses, public meetings and of course our vital surgeries are crucial to us being able to articulate the views of or communities and to champion them in parliament. I like the fact that when I am doing the shopping or walking the dog, people come up and talk to me about their issues, be it the latest housing development or their pension concerns. We must not jeopardise all that is great about our democracy but we must get the security basics right.

There is no doubt this referendum in particular has been conducted in the most poisonous and aggressive of tones. We all have a responsibility to step back from the brink. To tone down the language, the hatred, the vitriol and personal abuse. To respect one another's opinions and views despite the fact we may disagree. To recognise there are very many good and decent people in politics and public service. We will make mistakes and we will be fallible. But, like Jo, we are just trying to do our best to make that difference to our communities and the world we live in.

Jo's husband Brendan has asked us to fight against the hate that killed her. We must all make that our promise to Jo.