Murdered MP Jo Cox's sister Kim Leadbeater ‘humbled’ by candidacy for by-election in same seat

Ms Cox was killed by far-right extremist in Batley and Spen constituency five years ago

The sister of murdered MP Jo Cox said she was “humbled” to have been chosen to defend the seat once held by Ms Cox.

Kim Leadbeater was selected on Sunday to represent the UK’s opposition Labour Party in the Batley and Spen constituency where her sister was murdered five years ago.

Mother-of-two Ms Cox, 41, was killed by right-wing extremist Thomas Mair as she left her constituency office in Birstall, near Leeds in the north of England, in June 2016 – a week before the Brexit referendum vote.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 23, 2016 sister of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, Kim Leadbeater, delivers a statement outside the Old Bailey criminal court in London on November 23, 2016, following the conviction of Jo's killer Thomas Mair. Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered British lawmaker Jo Cox, has been selected to stand in an upcoming by-election in the north England constituency of Batley and Spen the opposition Labour party. Leadbeater, 44, was chosen on May 23, 2021 to stand in the Yorkshire constituency which her sister represented at the time of her death in 2016.
 / AFP / Niklas HALLE'N

Ms Leadbeater, 44, a personal trainer and campaigner, said she was overwhelmed to be chosen and hoped to be a candidate Britain's ruling Conservative Party would “fear”.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

More than 80 per cent of members voted in favour of her candidacy over lawyer Hugh Goulbourne and medical student Hasnain Khan.

Labour previously won the seat by a narrow margin in 2019 and a by-election was called after the appointment of its former MP Tracy Brabin as West Yorkshire mayor.

The Batley and Spen seat has been held by Labour since 1997 and the party clung on by 3,525 votes in 2019.

It is expected to be evenly contested and will be pivotal for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer after his party recently lost the seat of Hartlepool, which it had held for decades, to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

Labour also lost seats in neighbouring Wakefield and Dewsbury. Another defeat in a traditional heartland would be a major blow to Mr Starmer.

“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,” Mr Starmer said.

“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.”

Ryan Stephenson, chairman of the West Yorkshire Conservatives and a Leeds city councillor, was chosen as the Conservative candidate.

George Galloway, who lost his Bradford West seat to Labour’s Naz Shah at the 2015 general election, announced his Workers Party of Britain would be putting forward a candidate as an alternative to Labour.

An outspoken critic of Israel, Mr Galloway has been seen campaigning in the area and a Labour source told The Times newspaper they fear he could exploit the situation in Gaza and split the Labour vote.

“Even if he only wins 2,000 votes, they’re coming straight off our pile,” the source said.

On Monday, Mr Galloway tweeted that some Labour activists had pledged their support for his party.

The area has faced problems with racial tensions in recent years. Last month, a teacher was suspended after showing pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, leading to community protests outside the school.

An independent investigation report is due shortly.

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