The sister of murder Labour MP Jo Cox joined Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy to launch a campaign tackle the "silent epidemic" of loneliness in Parliament on Tuesday (31 January). Kim Leadbeater explained how she and her sister experienced loneliness during their university years.
"Jo and I were always surrounded by people for most of our lives, but interestingly on a personal level we had our own experience of feeling alone," she told MPs and Cox's colleagues.
"When Jo went away to university it was a very difficult time for both of us and I think it would be fair to say that we both experienced loneliness.
"Jo down in Cambridge and me up in Yorkshire. We would talk late at night about how much we missed each other. Fortunately we both came through this period, we were lucky enough to have help and support from our friends and family."
Leadbeater added: "Loneliness transcends age, gender, race, religion, class and party politics. It's something we can all tackle together as a society to create cohesive communities and positive relationships. And, of course, to make Jo proud."
The comments came as 13 charities, including the British Red Cross, the Alzheimer's Society and Age UK, work with politicians to look for practical solutions to reduce the harm of loneliness on individuals and families across the UK.
Reeves and Conservative MP Kennedy will co-chair the commission, which Cox, a mother of two, began to set-up before she was killed by a neo-Nazi in her West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen last June (2016).
"Loneliness is a silent epidemic in all of our communities," Reeves said. "Nine million people report themselves as lonely all or almost most of the time. We also know that loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day."
"So this is a crisis that we have to do something about. Jo knew that and that's why she started this commission."
Cox's widower Brendan, who has launched the More In Common campaign in memory of his wife, was also in attendance.