Kim Leadbeater promises to offer voters 'something a little bit different' from normal politics as she stands for Labour in Batley and Spen by-election

Kim Leadbeater has said she will be offering voters "something a little bit different" in the upcoming Batley and Spen by-election as she aims to "re-excite and re-energise" people who have become disillusioned with politics.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 5:19 pm
Updated Monday, 24th May 2021, 5:20 pm

In her first interview since being chosen as Labour s candidate to be in MP in her sister Jo Cox's old constituency, Ms Leadbeater told The Yorkshire Post it was a "very difficult decision" to formally enter politics for the first time.

The 45-year-old was chosen this weekend by Labour members to be the party's candidate in the by-election this summer triggered by former MP Tracy Brabin becoming West Yorkshire metro mayor earlier this month.

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Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, on the campaign trail in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, with Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis ahead of the the Batley and Spen by-election. Pic: Simon Hulme

The leadership will hope that Ms Leadbeater's strong local links and high profile in the area will enable her to see off the challenge of the Tories represented by Leeds councillor Ryan Stephenson, the chairman of the West Yorkshire Conservatives.

No date has been been set for the contest although Labour - which is defending a majority of 3,525 from the 2019 general election - is widely expected to delay until late July.

And today she spent her first afternoon knocking on doors in Heckmondwike, a stone's throw from where she went to school, in a bid to win over floating voters in the constituency.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Leadbeater said: "Local people are just brilliant, absolutely brilliant, that's what has made me put myself forward for selection because I want to work with people and work with local people.

Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, on the campaign trail in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, ahead of the the Batley and Spen by-election. Pic: PA

"I was born and raised in Heckmondwike and I love it as a little town. So I want to listen to people, and that's what this job will be about for me.

"I think people want change. I think people want something different. And it ties in with a lot of people I have spoken to in my own life, people are a bit disillusioned with politics.

"People want to be re-excited and reengaged, and that's certainly how I am going to approach the whole campaign, something a little bit different from politics."

The seat was represented by Mrs Cox until she was shot and stabbed by a far-right extremist in June 2016.

Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, on the campaign trail in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, ahead of the the Batley and Spen by-election. Pic: Simon Hulme

Labour is desperate to hold on to the seat following the party's crushing defeat in another "red wall" by-election in Hartlepool earlier this month.

Ms Leadbeater, who established the Jo Cox Foundation in honour of her sister, said: "The selection process was really tough. I haven't done a job interview for over 20 years. So I had two quite intense interviews over the weekend, one with the National Executive Committee, and one with the Constituency Labour Party

"I did find it stressful but it was also really interesting to be able to reflect on the things that I've achieved in my life in the last few years and prior to that.

"And what was wonderful, and really important to me was that it was the local Labour party members that voted for me to go through to be the candidate and that really just meant a lot to me.

"The biggest thing for me is that this is my patch. This is the area that I've lived in all my life and I've lived in every little bit of it, to be honest so Batley, Heckmondwike, Cleckheaton, Gomersal, Liversedge, Littletown, places that other candidates from other parties probably haven't even heard of.

"So this is very very personal for me and it's very very local for me. I live here, I care about it, and I want to make a difference.

"And you know I've done an awful lot of work through the foundation for the charity that I've been working for for the last five years and whilst politics in its truest sense is quite new to me, I think I can build on the work that I've done within this community, in the most positive and biggest way by entering the political arena."

In 2017 Ms Leadbeater revealed how she had been urged to put herself forward as her sister's successor following her death the previous summer.

And she said that deciding to do so five years on "was the most difficult decision I've had to make" and involved "lots of long, difficult conversations with family and friends and people who know me".

She said: "People are apprehensive, but they've also got my back, and they fully support me so my parents fully support the decision, even though it was a hard decision for us all to make.

"No one asked me to put myself forward, I chose to do it off my own back and that's really important to me. I think I've got an amazing team around me, and I think being part of the Labour Party family has also made me feel safe and secure.

"So yeah it was a very difficult decision. But, ultimately, I'm not going to change. I'm going into politics to change politics, not to change who I am."