MP Kim Leadbeater vows to do her sister Jo Cox proud – and says ‘ugly’ politics must end

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Labour's newest MP today demanded an end to "toxic" and "ugly" politics that marred the race to replace her murdered sister.

Kim Leadbeater said she and grassroots activists suffered "personal abuse and intimidation" on the campaign trail in Batley and Spen.

And she said it was "really sad" that divisive politics had hit the seat, five years after its MP Jo Cox – Kim's sister – was murdered by a far-right extremist.

The party's race to hold the key West Yorkshire seat turned ugly over the weekend as two separate incidents were reported to police.

Labour activists out in Batley were "followed, verbally abused and physically assaulted by a group of young men", according to departing MP and new West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin.

Kim Leadbeater said she and grassroots activists suffered "personal abuse and intimidation"
(Image: Getty Images)

Separately, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) condemned a "dirty tricks" campaign after fake leaflets purporting to be from "woke" Labour were pushed through letterboxes.

Meanwhile, Ms Leadbeater was shouted at in the street, after a man demanded to know if she supports LGBT education in schools.

Labour separately was accused of exploiting community divisions over Kashmir, after putting out a leaflet which showed Boris Johnson shaking hands with India's leader.

Speaking after she won by just 323 votes, Ms Leadbeater said today: “It had been a very emotional campaign and today is very emotional for me for lots of reasons.

“But if I can be half the MP Jo was, I know I will do her proud and I’ll do her family proud. Fingers crossed I’ll do a fantastic job, just as she did.”

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But she told broadcasters: "Sadly we had some pretty ugly scenes last weekend in the campaign. I was subjected to personal abuse and intimidation and sadly people who were helping me with the campaign had similar, even someone got arrested.

"And it’s really sad that we had that because I tried to conduct a really positive campaign, full of energy, all about the people of Batley and Spen.

“It was very upsetting to see that kind of divisiveness creep into our politics again”.

Kim Leadbeater with her sister Jo Cox
(Image: Johnston Press /

Ms Leadbeater said she had tried to “rise above” it, but told BBC Breakfast: “We need to think about what politics looks like going forward.

“And for me some of the tactics that we’ve seen in recent weeks – they have no place in politics in this country as far as I’m concerned.”

Ms Leadbeater said it was “sad” that she should be focused on security, especially after her sister Jo Cox’s death, when she should only be excited.

“We need to make sure politicians connect with people so we can hopefully break down some of that toxicity”, she said.

Kim Leadbeater on the doorstep during the by-election campaign
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Ms Leadbeater admitted “there’s work to do” to widen Labour’s support after “two really tough election defeats” and more than 8,000 votes going to George Galloway.

“I want to be part of that rebuilding process,” she said. “The Labour Party values are the values I’ve lived my life by – this is about social justice and fairness and equality.

“But we’ve got to reconnect with some of our voters and for me to be part of that is something I’m very excited about doing.”

She insisted: “The fact that I’m born and bred here has been really important to people.”

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Ms Leadbeater held the seat for Keir Starmer's party with 13,246 votes to Conservative Ryan Stephenson's 12,973 in an astonishingly close-run contest.

Maverick left-winger George Galloway, who stood for the Workers Party, took 8,265 – many thought to be from Labour.

Bitter Mr Galloway, who came third, said he would apply to have the result set aside by the courts.

Speaking outside the count, he said his election effort had been damaged by a “false statement” that he had laughed while Ms Leadbeater was abused by the anti-LGBT-education heckler.

“The whole election campaign was dominated by lazy and false tropes about our campaign, about the thousands of people that voted for us, about their motives for doing so, in a way which defamed them as much as it defamed me,” he said.

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