Labour’s newest MP Kim Leadbeater declared in her maiden speech this afternoon that she would “give literally anything not to be standing here today in her place”, paying tribute to her sister, Jo Cox, who represented Batley and Spen until her murder in 2016.
Delivering her first speech in the House of Commons, she said: “I hope Members will understand that I mean no disrespect to this place when I say that I would give literally anything not to be standing here today in her place.
“We have already heard what an extraordinary contribution Jo made to politics in the tragically short time that she sat on these benches. The love and respect she earned across this chamber is a testament to the very special qualities she brought to the job and the kind of person she was.
“Others are better-qualified than I am to reflect on her talents as a parliamentarian. And for me, she will always be many other things before an MP. A compassionate, caring humanitarian. A proud Yorkshire lass. A friend to many, including a significant number of those sat here today.
“A loving daughter, and I’m delighted that our parents Jean and Gordon are here today. A fantastic sister-in-law and wife. An outstanding mum to Cuillin and Lejla, who remain full of Jo’s energy, optimism and spirit. And the best big sister anybody could ask for.
“Jo’s murder ripped the heart of our family. I’ve spoke on many occasions about my ongoing disbelief and devastation following her death, and it still doesn’t feel real. Today, more than ever. And it was devastating for the people of Batley and Spen, too, because so many of them had also taken her to their hearts.”
She added: “People may make comparisons, and they are of course entitled to. But I am very much my own person. And I will always be true to myself, proud of where I come from, and ready to crack on and get stuff done, no matter how big the challenges may be.”
Turning to her constituency, Leadbeater said that “when others have sought to set us against each other, we have come together” and locals “have shown the best of ourselves” with “generosity, warmth, respect, tolerance and love”.
Taking aim at the Tories, she continued: “We don’t like being taken for fools. So, with respect, I say to the party opposite that fine words about ‘levelling up’ are all well and good, but what we’ve seen instead in Batley and Spen over the last decade are drastically reduced police numbers, huge cuts to the roads repair budget, growing poverty and inequality, and queues outside our food banks.”
On her contributions to parliament, the new MP said: “When I do get the opportunity to speak, it will be an honour to bring a bit of Yorkshire’s straight talking, grit and common sense. Like Jo, I will be happy to work with MPs of all parties…
“I’m quite new to politics so I’m the first to admit that I’ve got a lot to learn. I’ve already nearly sat down on the wrong side of the chamber a couple of times, although whilst that may be the wrong side for now – I’m sure that day will come.”
The Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, remarked after she had finished that “we’re all moved, we’ll always think of your sister and I know that you’re going to be a great Member of Parliament” before advising the former fitness instructor to join the rugby league group.
Leadbeater delivered a pleasant surprise for Labour when the party defied expectations in July by holding on to the seat previously won by Jo Cox and Tracy Brabin. She secured 13,296 votes compared to the Conservatives who won 12,973.
"I hope members will understand that I mean no disrespect to this place when I say I would give literally anything not to be standing here today in her place"
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) September 9, 2021