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Sister of murdered MP Jo Cox chosen to fight Batley and Spen by-election

Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, has been chosen as Labour's candidate to fight the Batley and Spen by-election. - Credit: PA

The sister of murdered MP Jo Cox has been chosen by Labour to fight the Batley and Spen by-election.

Following a meeting of the local constituency Labour Party, Kim Leadbeater 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.

“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,” he said.

Addressing the meeting, Leadbeater – who was chosen from a shortlist of three – described herself as a “proud Yorkshirewoman” who had lived in Batley and Spen all her 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,” she said.

“I’m the candidate the Tories fear. They know that I have a proven track record of getting things done at a local level and an established reputation for working for all parts of the community.

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

The seat was represented by Cox until she was shot and stabbed 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.

The result triggered a bitter round of recriminations, with the Labour left – marginalised under Sir Keir – gunning for the party leader.

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 leadership will hope that Leadbeater’s strong local links and high profile in the area will enable her to see off the challenge of the Tories represented by Leeds councillor Ryan Stephenson, the chairman of the West Yorkshire Conservatives.

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 until late July.