Kim Leadbeater: political novice who will not follow the line in Westminster | Labor
“I have a bloody long list here, guys,” Kim Leadbeater said as she walked away from a voter at the start of Batley and Spen’s by-election campaign.
On this occasion, the parking lot was the number that Leadbeater had added to his little voter complaints book. As a local resident, she quickly understood issues often overlooked in the national narrative.
Leadbeater could not have predicted, however, that the contest would soon shift from parking and potholes to Palestine, or that uniformed police would be required for protection in his hometown.
Her election as MP for Batley and Spen on Friday morning followed one of the most controversial partial election campaigns in decades. There were homophobic insults, cheap blows, false leaflets, violence. And in the midst of that awful cacophony stood a newcomer to politics whose sister was murdered in this constituency just five years ago.
Leadbeater, 45, was incredibly close to his older sister, Jo Cox, whose murder rocked Britain a week before the EU referendum in 2016. They grew up in Heckmondwike, two miles from Batley, and shared friends, interests and values shaped by their parents.
While Cox went to Cambridge University, Leadbeater stayed local and rose through the ranks as a super saleswoman for one of West Yorkshire’s many bed companies. She then worked as a wellness coach and personal trainer, and as an ambassador for the Jo Cox Foundation, created in memory of her sister.
His decision to run as a Member of Parliament surprised many. “She never seemed particularly political, neither Labor nor Conservative,” said a local Labor figure.
Labor has relaxed its usual rules of being a member for at least 12 months to allow it to run. “The most difficult decision I have ever had to make,” she said after deliberating with her mother, father and partner. Safety, of course, was a major concern.
When Labor activists were kicked, punched and egged a few days before election day, Leadbeater visited his parents – Jean, a former school secretary, and Gordon, who worked in a toothpaste and hair spray factory – to reassure them.
“She was very adamant about it,” said a close family friend. “She was understandably quite shocked, but she was hardened by what happened to her and her family, and she really felt for the community.”
In fact, the atmosphere in the Leadbeater camp has improved following the scuffles. Her team said they were inundated with messages of support from Muslim residents, especially women, saying “it doesn’t reflect us.”
Leadbeater is an energetic, sympathetic and warm extrovert, and “as close to a ‘normal person’ as he was elected,” said a Labor activist. She greets strangers with a happy “hello, my love!” and practically bounced through doors during the election campaign, often meeting old school friends she chatted with for a while.
“Kim being the way she is, she would stand and talk to them for half an hour – yoga or whatever – while the rest of us tried to get her to come knocking on doors,” one said. close friend. “She is totally, totally, totally a human person.”
Most new MPs have at least one or two unsuccessful election campaigns behind them. Some have presented themselves as advisers. Most have been actively involved in the parties in their constituencies. Leadbeater has none of that experience, but thinks it might help her as she travels 200 miles south of Westminster.
“There are two reasons why I said before that I would not get involved in politics,” she told The Guardian during a pause between knocking the door. “One was because I swear too much. The second was because I’m not very good at following the party line. I will be my own wife.
Leadbeater has been outspoken about how all political parties have lost touch with voters. Will she be muzzled now that she has joined the fray? “Am I going to eck?” “, did she say.