Sister of UK MP Murdered by Far-Right Terrorist Wins By-Election

Kim Leadbeater is the new Labour MP for Batley and Spen, five years after her sister Jo Cox was murdered in the constituency.

02 July 2021, 1:21pm

The sister of a British MP who was murdered by a far-right terrorist has won a narrow by-election victory in the same constituency, following a campaign marred by dirty tricks and violence.

Kim Leadbeater, the Labour candidate, won 13,296 votes in Batley and Spen, in West Yorkshire, northern England. The Conservative candidate, Ryan Stephenson, came second with 12,973 votes. Former Labour MP George Galloway, standing for the Workers Party of Britain, came third with 8,264 votes.

Leadbeater is the sister of Jo Cox, who was serving as the Labour MP for Batley and Spen when she was murdered by a white supremacist in June 2016. Thomas Mair shot Cox twice in the head and once in the chest, and stabbed her multiple times in a village street as she arrived to hold a constituency surgery.

Mair had links to neo-Nazi organisations and saw Cox – who wrote an article defending some aspects of immigration days before her death – as a traitor to white people. He gave his name as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” at his trial and was sentenced to life in prison.

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Speaking after her election, Leadbeater said, “I am absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and they’ve voted for hope.”

The victory came after an ugly and divisive campaign.

Tracy Brabin – the former MP for the seat who recently became the mayor for West Yorkshire, triggering the by-election – said that she and other Labour campaigners were pelted with eggs and kicked in the head on the campaign trail.

Leadbeater was left “extremely intimidated” after she was harangued and chased by Shakeel Afsar, a Birmingham-based activist who asked Leadbeater if she would “support Muslim parents who don’t want their children to learn about LGBT indoctrination”.

Fake leaflets mocked up to look like Labour election materials were distributed, saying “Labour believes that the biggest threat to our precious multicultural society is whiteness, and as a community, we must tackle this threat head on.” The Trades Union Congress (TUC) was reported to be taking legal advice over the leaflets.

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Galloway, the candidate who came in third place, focused his campaign on his support for Palestine. Batley and Spen is a diverse constituency with a large Muslim population, and it is believed that many Muslim voters abandoned Labour to vote for Galloway.

But his campaign was accused of homophobic intimidation by Labour councillor Jack Deakin, and of “stirring the pot” on the issue of LGBTQ education in schools.

At a “free speech” rally organised by failed right-wing culture war candidate for London mayor Laurence Fox, Galloway ranted against “cancel culture” and said of school children, “I don’t want them taught how to masturbate. I don’t want them taught there are 99 genders. I don’t want them taught that men can become women by the mere act of declaring themselves to be, and end up in an Olympic team, beating the actual girls and women.”

Religious influence in education is a controversial issue in the constituency. Batley Grammar School has been the site of protests earlier this year, after reports that a religious education teacher showed children a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, apparently in an attempt to teach them about blasphemy. The teacher was suspended.

Leadbeater’s campaign was also accused of using divisive tactics. A leaflet circulated by the Labour Party pictured UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson shaking hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alongside the caption, “Don’t risk a Tory who’s not on your side”. Critics said the leaflet stoked racial tensions, mobilising Muslim voters to vote against the Tories because of his association with a Hindu nationallist leader.

The election was seen as a test for embattled Labour party leader Keir Starmer and the narrow victory will relieve some pressure on him. The party spent the days before the election in a round of pre-emptive recriminations for an expected loss, only to go and win the race, albeit narrowly.

Tagged:

Far right, yorkshire, labour party, George Galloway, world politics, worldnews, Kim Leadbeater

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