IN THE least surprising political announcement of 2021, the Labour party candidate for the forthcoming by-election in the West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen will be Kim Leadbeater.
Since she applied to stand, Ms Leadbeater’s selection has been assured, despite her having held no previous public office and protesting that she has ‘never really seen myself as a political animal’. This reluctant rookie has nonetheless sidestepped Labour’s normal requirement for election candidates to have been party members for at least one year; indeed, it is reported that she joined the party only when applying to stand.
Yet as soon as she proffered her name, having been ‘moved by how many local people from across the area, many Labour party members but others too, have been in touch asking me if I would stand’, the self-proclaimed political ingénue became a shoo-in. The inevitability of her selection was confirmed when brazen opportunist Andy Burnham hopped aboard Leadbeater’s unstoppable bandwagon.
Andy reminded the local party that she is ‘absolutely rooted in your community’, which is true, though no one can seriously believe that this is the principal reason why Kim Leadbeater has been given the nod. Leader Keir Starmer held out until his second congratulatory tweet before giving the game away: ‘Kim’s work to bring people together, just as her sister Jo Cox did, has inspired us all.’
The choice of novice Kim Leadbeater for Batley and Spen is primarily due to her being sister of the late Jo Cox, the constituency’s MP at the time of her murder in 2016. Not that Labour will admit as much, and no doubt the party will sanctimoniously scorn anyone who suggests that Leadbeater is a cynical selection. Desperate for the Tories not to dislodge another brick in the former Red Wall, Labour will not go as far as putting on the ballot paper ‘sister of Jo Cox’; but be in no doubt that selecting her sibling is a shameless pitch for the sympathy vote.
Sir Keir purrs that Kim Leadbeater will be ‘a fantastic champion for Batley and Spen, tackling the issues local people are raising’. One wonders what, if anything, she will have to say regarding the three teachers still suspended from Batley Grammar School, one of whom – for showing cartoon depictions of Prophet Muhammad – remains in hiding with his family, still fearing for his life.
The outgoing Labour MP Tracy Brabin, who has been elected the first mayor of West Yorkshire, pathetically pandered to the constituency’s large Muslim vote: ‘The upset and offence this has caused is understandable but it was also predictable. I am pleased that the school has recognised it was inappropriate and apologised for the offence caused.’
She subsequently ‘clarified’ that ‘no teacher should be facing intimidation or threats’. Even so, timorous Tracy still did not dare to denounce the medieval militants at the school gate, who disgracefully had driven the poor man and his family into hiding.
Will prospective MP Kim Leadbeater show any more backbone? ‘I feel passionately about the strength there is in such a diverse constituency,’ she proclaimed following her selection, which does not suggest she will speak out against Islamic intolerance in Batley, certainly not before the by-election.
She also boasts: ‘I’m the candidate the Tories fear’. No wonder. In Batley and Spen the Conservatives are up against two opponents: Kim Leadbeater and the shadow of her sister.