Recently-elected Witney councillor Rosa Bolger asks why the nation feels divided.

AS the coffin of Winston Churchill was carried up the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, it passed Clement Attlee, who tipped his hat as a sign of respect.

Two leaders, with different political views, who worked together in government in the national interest during the war and treated each other with dignity - how did we get so far away from this?

In June 2016, Jo Cox MP was murdered because she held a view that someone did not agree with.

Murdered while carrying out her role as a democratically elected representative for her constituents in Batley and Spen.


Jo Cox MP

As often happens with a great tragedy, Jo’s death brought together people from across the political spectrum who would not accept another brilliant woman being lost from politics.

They made it their goal to train other women to become leaders and from this came the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme.

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I am incredibly proud to have been selected to join the Jo Cox Programme as part of the 2019 cohort.

This wonderful opportunity is about sisterhood, women helping women, empowering and lifting one another, and celebrating what we can achieve.

I am relatively new to this. I stood for council for the first time last year, and was very proud and slightly surprised to be elected by just 10 votes in Witney East, only the second ever Labour representative for the area.

Already, I have found that I can achieve more by working with people from all political opinions and backgrounds.

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For example, when our local Cogges Surgery was threatened with closure, I worked with people from across the community, including my fellow Labour councillor Duncan Enright but also Conservative councillors, to show the NHS authorities how much we all value the work our GPs and their team do on Cogges.

This united outpouring of support for the surgery gave them time to find a new partner, and an easy way for the Oxfordshire NHS to approve its continued contract.

We had the interests of the NHS and the community in common, and we united for our area.

I believe a damaging Brexit will further impoverish Britain and we are already seeing jobs go at Honda, so there again I will fight for what is right, with others from whichever political party, but always with respect for those who disagree.

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In 2016 we lost an incredible woman leader, but her legacy lives on, and from her leadership programme we’ve already seen two sisters elected to parliament, Rosie Duffield, the first Labour MP of Canterbury and Preet Gill, the first female British Sikh MP.

There is no doubt that our country is divided, split down the middle over many issues, but what continues to unite us is our common and human need to act in kindness, with dignity and respect, much like Mrs Cox, Mr Churchill, Mr Attlee and many other great leaders of the past.