Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford has paid tribute to slain British MP Jo Cox, with whom he worked in the early 2000s.

Ms Cox, 41, was shot three times and repeatedly stabbed in a shocking attack as she arrived at her constituency surgery in the UK earlier today.

Mr Twyford was director of Oxfam International's campaigning and advocacy, based in Washington DC, when he hired Ms Cox to run the European division from Brussels.

"It is really a shock. It is an awful, violent thing to happen. She kind of represented the best of what you want an elected representative to be - very brave, outspoken, smart, and really dedicated to serving her constituents.


"She was just a huge amount of fun to work with, and had a great sense of humour. She was very proud of her working class background in Yorkshire."

Mr Twyford said he had followed his former colleague's career with interest.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the New Zealand Labour Party was "sickened and saddened" by Ms Cox's death.

"Ms Cox was killed in cold blood while simply doing her job as a constituent MP. MPs anywhere in the world should be able to carry out their democratic duties without fear of violent attack.

"New Zealand Labour sends its heartfelt condolences to Jo Cox's family, friends and her colleagues on all sides of British politics."

"She was a great advocate for social justice and internationalism, and by all accounts was universally liked in the British parliament and rated as a rising star."

Mr Twyford said he thought all politicians, including in New Zealand, were aware of the danger of such incidents and took threats seriously.

"But you are a politician, and your job is to serve the community. There is no getting away from that. Sometimes just really bad things happen in life, and Jo...was outside one of her regular constituency clinics."