Sister of Jo Cox begins Westminster campaign with vow to change politics

The sister of murdered MP Jo Cox began her campaign to retain the Batley and Spen seat for Labour saying: “I’m going into politics to change politics, not to change who I am.”

Kim Leadbeater was selected as Labour candidate for by-election in the West Yorkshire constituency on Sunday evening and was knocking on doors in Heckmondwike on Monday.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, she said: “The biggest thing for me is that this is my patch.

“This is the area I’ve lived in all my life.

“This is very, very personal for me and it’s very, very local for me.

“I live here.

“I care about it and I want to make a difference.”

Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater (Danny Lawson/PA)
Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater (Danny Lawson/PA)

She told the paper: “I’m not going to change.

“I’m going into politics to change politics, not to change who I am.”

After Ms Leadbeater was selected by the local constituency Labour Party on Sunday, she said she was “overwhelmed and humbled” by the support she had received from party members in the seat her sister used to represent.

Her selection was welcomed by party leader Sir Keir Starmer who said her roots in the community would make her a “fantastic champion” for the constituency.

The by-election was triggered by the election of Labour MP Tracy Brabin having to quit Westminster following her election as the first mayor of West Yorkshire.

Unlike the neighbouring Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, Dan Jarvis, Ms Brabin could not keep her parliamentary seat as she took on the role of police and crime commissioner.

Mr Jarvis joined Ms Leadbeater on the campaign trial in the pouring rain on Monday in Heckmondwike.

The late Jo Cox (the Jo Cox Foundation/PA)
The late Jo Cox (the Jo Cox Foundation/PA)

The seat was represented by Mrs Cox until she was murdered by a far-right extremist in June 2016.

Labour is desperate to hold on to the seat following the party’s crushing defeat in another “red wall” by-election in Hartlepool earlier this month.

Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, a close ally of ex-leader Jeremy Corbyn, has said it could be “curtains” for Sir Keir if they lose again.

The Conservatives have selected Leeds councillor Ryan Stephenson, the chairman of the West Yorkshire Conservatives, to fight the by-election.

No date has been set for the contest although Labour, which is defending a majority of 3,525 from the 2019 general election, is widely expected to delay it until late July.