Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, has confirmed her interest in becoming the Labour candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election triggered by the election of Tracy Brabin as the mayor of West Yorkshire.
Brabin won the inaugural West Yorkshire mayoral contest on Thursday. The new position includes police and crime commissioner powers and MPs are not allowed to simultaneously be PCCs or hold posts with those powers.
Leadbeater, a campaigner and ambassador for the Jo Cox Foundation who lives in the constituency, told Batley & Birstall News today: “I would love to represent this extraordinary, vibrant place that I have called home all my life.
“The truth is, I have never really seen myself as a political animal, but I care deeply about the area where I was born and have always lived, and where the people are second to none. Everyone knows I talk a lot, but I also listen a lot.
“And I’ve listened to hundreds of people over these last few years. I’ve heard how disillusioned and disengaged they are with politics and how worried they are about the future of our towns and villages.
“And I’ve listened to their ideas about how we can give Batley and Spen an even brighter future. I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but I will speak up wherever and whenever it takes, so the voice of this constituency is heard loud and clear.”
One local resident told LabourList that they think the local campaigner would be “the strongest MP if elected”, and said the consensus is that Leadbeater would be difficult to beat in the upcoming selection contest.
They added: “Personally I think she would be strong and will have support. Her standing is bad news for Dan Howard, who is also very good, as their local bases would be very similar and I think she will take a lot of his support.”
Howard, also from the Batley and Spen seat, works on communications for the regional Labour Party and previously workers for former MP Mike Wood. Wood represented the constituency in parliament between 1997 and 2015.
Sources told LabourList that the process would likely be an all-woman shortlist. Five of the ten other people thought to be considering making a bid to replace Brabin as the local MP are women.
Salma Arif, also thought to be standing, is a Leeds councillor and cabinet member for public health. Sources have suggested that the leadership is keen on Arif and that there is likely to be a contest, unlike for the Hartlepool selection.
The party machine is “already working in her favour”, one said. But senior local party members may object, partly because she is from Leeds and partly because they do not want an imposed candidate.
The Labour selection panel for Hartlepool drew up a shortlist of one, Dr Paul Williams. Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has said that the Batley and Spen candidate must be selected by local members.
Brabin has represented the seat since the by-election in 2016, triggered by the murder of Cox by a far-right extremist. Brabin held the seat again in the 2017 general election with a majority of 8,961, but this was reduced to 3,525 in the 2019 vote.
The Labour majority is a similar size to that in Hartlepool before the by-election last week, in which the party’s candidate Dr Paul Williams lost to his Tory rival. Labour secured 8,589 votes compared the Conservatives who won 15,529
Unlike Hartlepool, Batley and Spen was held by the Tories until 1997. Concerns have also been raised ahead of the contest that there could be an even bigger ‘vaccine bounce’ with public health restrictions due to lift before the vote.
Value our free and unique service?
LabourList has more readers than ever before – but we need your support. Our dedicated coverage of Labour’s policies and personalities, internal debates, selections and elections relies on donations from our readers.