Jo Cox’s sister selected as Labour candidate for Batley and Spen byelection

Kim Leadbeater will try to hold on to West Yorkshire constituency where MP was murdered

Jo Cox’s younger sister has been selected to contest a byelection in Batley and Spen, the constituency where the MP was murdered five years ago.

Kim Leadbeater, 44, a personal trainer and campaigner, declared herself “the candidate the Tories fear”. She will try to hold the seat for Labour later this summer.

The byelection follows the resignation of Tracy Brabin, who was elected the first ever mayor of West Yorkshire earlier this month.

Leadbeater was selected by more than 80% of Labour members over Hugh Goulbourne, a lawyer from Huddersfield, and Hasnain Khan, a medical student from Sheffield University. She was endorsed by Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, as well as Shabir Pandor, the leader of the local Kirklees council.

In choosing her as its candidate, Batley and Spen Labour party waived the normal rules, which usually demand candidates are a member for at least a year before standing for office.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed earlier this week that Leadbeater has only just joined the party, though she was apparently a member before her sister’s murder. She took a step back from party politics when she took on a role at the Jo Cox foundation, set up in her sister’s memory.

Labour is defending a slender majority of 3,525 votes in a seat it has held since 1997. Leadbeater will face stiff competition from the Conservatives, who won neighbouring Dewsbury and Wakefield in the 2019 general election.

Ryan Stephenson, chair of the West Yorkshire Conservatives and a Leeds city councillor, was chosen as the Tory candidate last week.

After her selection, 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 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.”

She told them: “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.

“We need strong northern voices at Westminster. People rooted in their communities. I will work to represent people across the whole constituency.”

Keir Starmer said: “I am delighted that Kim has been selected to stand in the Batley and Spen byelection. Her roots in the community will make her a fantastic champion for Batley and Spen, tackling the issues local people are raising.”

The Labour leader added: “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.”

On 16 June it will be five years since Cox was murdered by a far-right terrorist, making that a potentially significant date in the campaign. A date for the byelection has not yet been set but it is understood 22 July has been suggested.

Leadbeater started her career in sales and went on to work in education, lecturing in physical activity, health and wellbeing at colleges in Bradford and Dewsbury. She is also a self-employed wellbeing coach and personal trainer, but has spent much of the time since Cox’s murder on community work with the Jo Cox Foundation.

Contributor

Helen Pidd North of England editor

The GuardianTramp

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