AMANDA PLATELL: My friend Brendan Cox is not some Weinstein-like sex fiend - if anyone deserves a second chance he does
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The first time I met Brendan Cox was last June when we both appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
I spent nearly an hour with him and his two small children, Cuillin and Lejla, in the green room, and was so inspired by this loving little family I wrote about them in my column.
Their chatter was peppered with so many references to ‘Mummy’ you’d have thought she was waiting for them all at home. A year earlier, the Labour MP Jo Cox had been murdered in the street.
Since then I have come to know Brendan and his children through his charity work for the Jo Cox Foundation and More In Common, which he set up after her death.
I was deeply shocked to learn yesterday that Brendan, 39, had resigned from both his cherished charities after allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior said to have taken place while Jo was still alive.
Clearly, I don’t condone what he did if the allegations are true, but it is not the conduct of the man I have come to know.
Crushed by guilt, Brendan has apologised and accepted that his behaviour – which he says was playful rather than predatory – was inappropriate. He added: ‘That doesn’t mean I’m innately a bad person or that it’s not possible to learn from my mistakes.’
And that, surely, is the point. If anyone deserves a second chance, it is Brendan Cox.
Who among us can comprehend what it must be like to carry on raising two little children on your own, surrounding them with love and security after their mother has not just died, but been brutally – and so senselessly – murdered.
I cannot speak for Brendan’s character before Jo’s death, I can only attest to it since the ghastly events of June 16, 2016.
We are the unlikeliest of friends, he a committed Labour man, me a lifelong Conservative. Yet what I see in him is a devoted father who has almost miraculously managed to give Cuillin, seven, and Lejla, five, a happy life.
They are adorable, inquisitive, vivacious kids, which in itself speaks for Brendan’s character.
It must take guts beyond imagining for him just to get out of bed every day, to mask his own sorrow and go on living and loving the little ones.
After Jo’s murder, nothing was ever allowed to interfere with Brendan’s role as a father. Parents’ nights, camping holidays together, picking the kids up from school – they always took priority over everything. His diary was – and is – arranged around his children.
But Brendan also started up two charities in Jo’s name. I suspect that’s partly what kept him going. The last time I saw him and the children together was a few weeks ago at a reception to thank those who had helped launch the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, which resulted in Theresa May appointing a loneliness minister.
It was a cause close to Jo’s heart. Their two children munched pizza and mixed with the great and the good, who had gathered not just to support the cause but the man who had created it, before they were sent off to bed.
For make no mistake, since Jo’s death Brendan has been a powerful and effective campaigner.
Hundreds of thousands gathered last year for the Great Get Together – which he organised to combat loneliness – where people extended the hand of friendship to strangers at street parties picnics and other events throughout the country.
That night Brendan was feted. Yet overnight, his world has changed and he has been forced out of the charities for which he did such good work. While you might expect me to be outraged by these accusations, I’m not.
My main feeling is one of sadness – for Brendan and his two small children. He has apologised, he’s admitted he behaved badly.
No one has died.
No one, that is, apart from Jo Cox. Hasn’t this family suffered enough? Brendan is not some Weinstein-like sex fiend. He is, like many men and women, someone who made mistakes.
But in these febrile times where victimhood rules and women are bent on bringing erring men down, that seems not to matter.
And the tragedy is that it will be a far poorer world if we lose Brendan’s campaigning voice.