Watch: Labour’s Kim Leadbeater pays tribute to her sister, Jo Cox
Labour’s Kim Leadbeater has paid tribute to her murdered sister Jo Cox after her victory in the Batley and Spen by-election.
Her narrow win means she will be an MP in the seat previously held by her sister, who was murdered there in 2016.
Leadbeater won the West Yorkshire seat on Friday with a majority of just 323 votes after an often bitter campaign that saw campaigners pelted by eggs and candidates verbally abused.
Her margin of victory was down from the 3,525 secured at the last general election in 2019.
Leadbeater secured the seat with 13,296 votes, with the Conservative Party’s Ryan Stephenson on 12,973 and George Galloway in third with 8,264.
The victory eases the pressure on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who hailed it as a “fantastic result”.
Speaking after her win, Leadbeater told BBC Breakfast: “It was a very big decision to put myself forward.
“It has 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 will do my family proud.”
Following her win, she also thanked Mrs Cox’s two children.
“I want to give a special shout out to my niece and nephew who I cannot wait to hug as soon as I see them,” she said.
Brendan Cox, Mrs Cox’s widower, told the BBC he had not yet woken up his children to tell them of Leadbeater’s victory.
“I’m trying to keep them asleep for as long as possible so their energy levels don’t dip too much during the day but they’re going to be incredibly excited,” he said.
“We had a call with Kim yesterday and just talking about, win or lose, how proud they were of her.
“They’ll be incredibly excited. I’m just trying to put off the moment when they start bouncing around the house.
“It’s a big day, just on that personal level we’re all incredibly proud of what Kim’s done.
“She was incredibly brave to step forward into it, not just around the security side of things given what happened to Jo but also the context, it was a very bruising and pretty horrible campaign at times.”
In her victory speech in Huddersfield, Leadbeater also thanked her “amazing parents and my wonderful partner”.
After taking the seat vacated by Labour’s Tracey Brabin becoming the mayor of West Yorkshire in May, Leadbeater also said: “I want to say a huge thank you to the police who, sadly, I have needed more than ever over the last few weeks.”
The Batley and Spen contest saw clashes between Galloway’s Workers Party and Labour supporters.
The most controversial arguments centred on the parties’ stance on international issues, including Kashmir and Palestine, as they battled to secure votes in the area’s Asian communities.
Labour activists said they were pelted with eggs and kicked in the head on the campaign trail at the weekend and West Yorkshire Police said an 18-year-old man from Batley was arrested on suspicion of assault in connection with an attack on canvassers.
Leadbeater was also confronted by a man who challenged her over the situation in Kashmir and her stance on LGBT education in schools amid what he said were concerns from Muslim parents.
Galloway said he would take legal action to get the result set aside, claiming his election effort had been damaged by a “false statement” that he had laughed while Leadbeater was abused on the campaign trail.
Leadbeater told BBC Breakfast: “Sadly, we have seen some nastiness during this by-election campaign and there are some divisions that need to be healed. I think that if anyone can achieve that I can.
“Sadly we have seen some poor behaviour. There have been situations where I have felt very intimidated.
“We have had some of our campaigners had things thrown at them and somebody has been arrested. There have been moments of real unpleasantness.”
The by-election was triggered after the former MP Tracy Brabin resigned the role when she was elected to be the West Yorkshire Metro mayor.
Watch: George Galloway to apply to have by-election result set aside