Kim Leadbeater, sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, receives backing from council leader to become MP in Batley & Spen by-election
The sister of murdered Yorkshire MP Jo Cox has received backing from the council chief in Kirklees to be the Labour candidate for the by-election in her old constituency of Batley & Spen.
The recently re-elected Kirklees Council leader Shabir Pandor said in a statement he would be "proud" to work alongside Kim Leadbeater, and that the people of Batley and Spen needed a "local champion" who can "bring people together" and "get things done" ahead of the election expected to take place this summer.
The by-election was called after Tracy Brabin, the local MP, was elected as the first mayor of West Yorkshire on Sunday and Labour is defending a slender majority of 3,525 votes in a seat it has held since 1997.
Ms Leadbeater, a campaigner who lives locally and is an ambassador for the Jo Cox Foundation, confirmed last week that she hoped to become Labour’s candidate.
Coun Pandor wrote in a statement on Twitter: "I’m a Batley born and bred and I will be proud to work alongside Kim Leadbeater in this campaign and beyond.
“Batley and Spen needs a local champion who can bring people together and get things done.
“We are lucky to have someone on our doorstep who can do all of these things and more.”
Ms Leadbeater, who was awarded an MBE in the new year honours in December for her work tackling social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic, is the most high-profile name to emerge so far as a potential candidate and she is expected to be a popular choice among local Labour members, who will choose their candidate from a shortlist in the coming weeks.
Coun Pandor added: "As a council leader I know the challenges we face in Batley. Kim knows them too but she also understands the people who live here because she's rooted in the community.
"Together, I know we can work together to improve the lives of people across Batley and Spen."
Ms Leadbeater, 45, who chairs the More in Common Batley and Spen community volunteer group, told the Batley and Birstall News last week that the prospect of the forthcoming by-election for Batley and Spen "has affected me deeply in ways I really hadn’t expected".
She added: "I’ve had to do a lot of soul-searching and thinking about what’s best for the place I love.
"I’ve been moved by how many local people from across the area, many Labour Party members but others too, have been in touch asking me if I would stand in the by-election. It has knocked me for six.
"I would love to represent this extraordinary, vibrant place that I have called home all my life. I am touched that so many people seem to think I would do a good job and I can promise that if they want me I will give my all for Batley and Spen at Westminster."
Keir Starmer is under huge pressure over the party’s performance in its former heartlands after a devastating defeat in the Hartlepool byelection last week. Losing another seat to the Conservatives would embolden the Labour leader’s critics.
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