THE message was a simple one: unity.

Opposing political party leaders joined the community in Birstall to react to the murder of Jo Cox MP.

A sense of surreality meshed with the disbelief felt by the 200 people including local MPs at the Joseph Priestley Statue in the village’s market place, the centre of global media attention.

It was there that the sombre-faced Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn shared their shock at the killing of Mrs Cox, 41, and urged steps to be taken to honour her beliefs in democracy and community.

Mrs Cox, who entered Parliament as Labour MP for Batley and Spen last year, was shot and stabbed to death in the street outside her constituency advice surgery in Birstall on Thursday.

Both leaders laid flowers at the scene, as did House of Commons speaker John Bercow and Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn, before making their speeches.

The Prime Minister said the whole nation was “rightly shocked” at Mrs Cox’s death, and called for people to “value, and see as precious, the democracy we have on these islands”.

Read more: Moving tributes pour in for MP as book of condolence opened in Batley

He followed: “Where we see hatred, where we find division, where we see intolerance, we must drive it out of our politics and out of our public life and out of our communities.

“If we truly want to honour Jo, then what we should do is recognise that her values – service, community, tolerance – the values she lived by and worked by, those are the values that we need to redouble in our national life in the months and years to come.”

Mr Corbyn described her killing as “an attack on democracy”, saying it was a “well of hatred that killed her”.

He added: “She also leaves behind two young children who will never see their mother again. They will only be able to grow up knowing what she was, what she stood for, and what she achieved.”

Parliament is to be recalled on Monday to allow MPs to pay tribute to the mother of two, who the Prime Minister described as one of the “most passionate and brilliant campaigners” in the House of Commons.

Batley & Spen Labour MP Jo Cox.

The father of the MP’s assistant Fazila Aswat described how his daughter tried to comfort her after the attack, which left her bleeding copiously.

“She tried to help her, she tried to hit (the attacker) with her handbag but he tried to go at her. People came so he followed them and he came back again and shot her again twice,” former Labour councillor Ghulam Maniyar said.

Across the market square from where they stood, police tape still cordoned off the spot where the 41-year-old former aid worker was killed.

Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman, Dewsbury’s Labour MP Paula Sherriff and Colne Valley’s Conservative MP Jason McCartney were united.

Mr Sheerman said: “We’re all here cross parties supporting each other.

“It’s wonderful that the party leaders were all here to show that no-one is going to stop the great heart of our democracy

“There will be little changes. We’ve got to be a little more careful to keep that tradition going.

Read more: Batley and Spen by-election: Labour will be allowed to keep the seat

“We’ve got to carry on with her tradition to keep her memory alive and the embodiment of the passion she had. She was the finest example of the brightest brilliant talent and she would have gone so far.”

Mr McCartney addressed the inevitable issues of MPs’ security and the by-election her death will necessitate.

“We’re all still in absolute shock. We used to travel up and down together and have cups of tea together.

“Jo used the last Bank Holiday to email me about getting aid drops to isolated Syrian refugees.

“She cared about other people with that positivity and you couldn’t help get but get involved with her.

“Let’s take something forward in positivity. We have responsibility for our staff but in our democracy MPs are very accessible; we don’t want to stop that but we have to make sure we have security.”

Jo Cox at the opening of Windybank Learning and Community Hub at High Bank Junior School, Liversedge.
Jo Cox at the opening of Windybank Learning and Community Hub at High Bank Junior School, Liversedge.

He suggested it not the time for party politics, and both Conservatives and Lib Dems have confirmed they will not field candidates in the necessary by-election.

Stunned residents added to the rapidly-growing floral tributes. Many knew Mrs Cox for her work on national and local issues, such as campaigning for faster autism diagnosis times.

Andrew Graham, of Birstall, said: “It’s crazy that something like this could happen

“She seemed like a genuine person – very intelligent and passionate.

“It’s a terrible shame she’s gone. We need more people like her, there are too many professional politicians around now.

“We’ve been trying for years to get Birstall on the map, this is not the way we wanted to do it.”

In pictures - Corbyn and Cameron pay tribute to Jo Cox

Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, Commons Speaker John Bercow, Prime Minister David Cameron, Speaker's chaplain Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrive to lay flowers in Birstall.

Crowds gather in Birstall as Hilary Benn, John Bercow, David Cameron, Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin and Jeremy Corbyn make their way through.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn lays flowers while Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, Commons Speaker John Bercow and Prime Minister David Cameron look on.

United in grief: Corbyn and Cameron address the media

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn described the murder of MP Jo Cox as “an attack on democracy”

Jeremy Corbyn embraces Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney as they pay their respects near to the scene of the murder.

Corbyn's moving message of condolence on his flowers for Jo Cox.