Kim Leadbeater: I would give anything not to be standing here in place of Jo

Kim Leadbeater said she would “give literally anything not to be standing” in the House of Commons in place of her murdered sister, Jo Cox.

The Labour MP for Batley and Spen rose to her feet with a “huge feeling of pride and a significant amount of nervousness” as she made her maiden speech in the chamber during a debate to celebrate Mrs Cox’s legacy.

Ms Leadbeater paid tribute to the “best big sister anybody could ask for”, who represented the same seat until her death in 2016, and drew upon words from her maiden speech.

Mrs Cox said in June 2015 that “We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides”, with Ms Leadbeater insisting: “Those words are as true today as when she said them. Perhaps even more so.”

Standing close to the spot where her sister previously sat in the Commons, Ms Leadbeater said the past 10 weeks since her election to represent the West Yorkshire constituency have been a “blur” and compared Parliament to Hogwarts from the Harry Potter stories.

She joked: “Nobody gave me a book of spells or taught me how to play Quidditch, but here I am.”

She added: “I am sure every new MP experiences the same mixture of pride and responsibility that I’m feeling right now.

“But, as the House does my family the great honour of paying tribute to my sister, I hope members will understand that I mean no disrespect to this place when I say that I’d give literally anything not to be standing here today in her place.”

Jo Cox shooting anniversary
Batley and Spen Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in 2016 (Jo Cox Foundation/PA)

Ms Leadbeater said her sister made an “extraordinary” contribution to politics during her “tragically short time” in the Commons.

She went on: “Others are better qualified to reflect on her talents as a parliamentarian and for me she’ll always be many other things before an MP.

“A compassionate and caring humanitarian, a proud Yorkshire lass, a friend to many, including a significant number of those who are sat 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 out of our family.

“I’ve spoken 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.”

Labour MP Kim Leadbeater makes her maiden speech in the House of Commons (PA)
Labour MP Kim Leadbeater makes her maiden speech in the House of Commons (PA)

After recalling words from Mrs Cox’s maiden speech, Ms Leadbeater acknowledged that the siblings had had their differences and disagreements.

She said: “Of course we do, and the world would be a very dull place if we didn’t, but we should also have the ability to respect each other’s opinions when we disagree and the good sense to know that our communities can only thrive when they embrace each and every one of us.

“And I am very clear that we cannot pick our equalities.”

Concluding, Ms Leadbeater said: “I am sure I will make more mistakes because I am only human, as we all are, and I think sometimes people forget that.

“We all have family and friends and, if we are lucky, maybe even some interests and hobbies outside of politics.

“Putting yourself forward for public office is a brave thing to do, wherever you sit in this place, and I appreciate it now more than ever.

“Since my election, the one thing people keep saying to me is ‘Kim, please don’t change’ and I don’t intend to. I will always stay true to my roots and identity.

“If I can be half the MP my sister was, then it will be a huge privilege to get on with the job of representing the wonderful people of Batley and Spen.”

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “Can I just say we are all moved. We will always think of your sister, and I know that you are going to be a great member of Parliament.”