Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, has confirmed her interest in becoming the Labour candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election triggered by the election of Tracy Brabin as West Yorkshire mayor.
Brabin won the inaugural West Yorkshire mayoral contest on Thursday. The new position includes police and crime commissioner powers, and MPs are not allowed to simultaneously be PCCs or hold posts with those powers.
Leadbeater, a campaigner and ambassador for the Jo Cox Foundation who lives in the constituency, told Batley & Birstall News today: “I would love to represent this extraordinary, vibrant place that I have called home all my life.
“The truth is, I have never really seen myself as a political animal, but I care deeply about the area where I was born and have always lived, and where the people are second to none. Everyone knows I talk a lot, but I also listen a lot.
“And I’ve listened to hundreds of people over these last few years. I’ve heard how disillusioned and disengaged they are with politics and how worried they are about the future of our towns and villages.
“I’ve listened to their ideas about how we can give Batley and Spen an even brighter future. I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but I will speak up wherever and whenever it takes, so the voice of this constituency is heard loud and clear.”
One local member told LabourList that they think the campaigner would be “the strongest MP if elected”, and said the consensus is that Leadbeater would be difficult to beat in the upcoming selection contest.
Sources have told LabourList that the process would likely be an all-woman shortlist. Salma Arif, a Leeds councillor, was initially thought to be the favoured candidate of the Labour leadership.
The party machine is “already working in her favour”, one source said recently, though it was thought senior local members may object. Leadbeater’s confirmed bid for the selection could now change the situation.
While Labour’s ruling body drew up a longlist of one, Dr Paul Williams, for Hartlepool, deputy leader Angela Rayner has said that the Batley and Spen candidate must be selected by local members.
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 by-election last week, in which the party’s candidate Dr Paul Williams lost to his Tory rival. Labour secured 8,589 votes compared the Conservatives who won 15,529
Unlike Hartlepool, Batley and Spen was held by the Tories until 1997. Concerns have also been raised ahead of the contest that there could be an even bigger ‘vaccine bounce’ with public health restrictions due to lift before the vote.