Kim Leadbeater, the sister of Jo Cox, has been selected by Labour members in Batley and Spen today to contest the seat in the upcoming by-election – and she has declared that “I’m the candidate the Tories fear”.
The ambassador for the Jo Cox Foundation, who lives in the constituency formerly represented by her sister, won the internal race against Huddersfield lawyer Hugh Goulbourne and medical student Hasnain Khan.
After a hustings held this afternoon, Leadbeater secured over 80% of the vote among Batley and Spen Labour members and won on the first round. She was the only local candidate to be included on the shortlist.
Commenting on her victory, Leadbeater said: “I am overwhelmed and humbled by the support and faith from members in Batley and Spen. I’m ready to hit the ground running and take Labour’s campaign to local people.”
During the meeting, she told local members: “I’m a proud Yorkshire woman and have lived in Batley and Spen all my life. I have a deep understanding of the area, its people and some of the challenges it faces. I feel passionately about the strength there is in such a diverse constituency.
“I’m the candidate the Tories fear. They know that I have a proven track record of getting things done at a local level and an established reputation for working for all parts of the community.
“I have lived in almost every part of the constituency during my life – Heckmondwike, Batley, Cleckheaton, Gomersal, Liversedge, Staincliffe and Littletown – places candidates from other parties probably haven’t even heard of!
“We need strong northern voices at Westminster. People rooted in their communities. I will work to represent people across the whole constituency.
“Nobody should be in any doubt about the scale of the task we have to keep Batley and Spen Labour. The spotlight will be on us – but I want to show the world that both the Labour party in Batley and Spen and our community are strong and proud.”
Leadbeater only joined the Labour Party in recent weeks. Party rules dictate that candidates should be members of the party for at least a year before standing for office, but exceptions are sometimes made.
Allies pointed out that she had been a Labour member before the murder of her sister, but took a step back from party politics afterwards and when taking on her role at the Jo Cox Foundation.
The shortlist of three prompted some accusations of a “stitch-up”, as two local councillors who applied were not included. But one, Aafaq Butt, tweeted that contrary to reports he was “not hacked off at all”.
Labour’s selection process is more rigorous for by-elections, with more challenging questions asked of applicants. LabourList understands that Leadbeater was scored highest by all three selection panellists.
Commenting on the selection result, Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “I am delighted that Kim has been selected to stand in the Batley and Spen by-election.
“Her roots in the community will make her a fantastic champion for Batley and Spen, tackling the issues local people are raising.
“Batley and Spen holds an important place in the Labour Party’s heart. And Kim’s work to bring people together, just as her sister Jo Cox did, has inspired us all.
“The people of the constituency know Kim well, admiring her hard work in the community and her determination to build a fairer, kinder society. I look forward to joining her on the campaign trail.”
Leadbeater’s selection bid was endorsed by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who said in a video: “She’s somebody who is absolutely rooted in your community, not a lifetime politician.
“Somebody who has been out there in the real world, who will be a fantastic voice for Batley and Spen but also for Labour in the North of England. I hope you’ll give her your full support.”
Batley and Spen’s most recent MP, Tracy Brabin, is now West Yorkshire mayor. Her post includes police and crime commissioner powers, and MPs are not allowed to simultaneously be PCCs or hold posts with those powers.
Brabin represented the seat after the by-election in 2016, triggered by the murder of Cox by a far-right extremist. Brabin held the seat again in the 2017 election with a majority of 8,961, but this was reduced to 3,525 in 2019.
The Labour majority is a similar size to that in Hartlepool before the recent by-election in which the party lost the seat to the Tories. Batley and Spen was held by the Conservative Party until 1997.