Jo Cox’s sister, Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater, heckled and chased on campaign trail

Keir Starmer slams the abuse as ‘disgraceful’

Rory Sullivan
Saturday 26 June 2021 17:14
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Labour’s Batley and Spen candidate heckled and chased on campaign trail

Jo Cox’s sister has been heckled and pursued on the campaign trail by a group consisting mainly of men, with party leader Keir Starmer condemning the abuse as “disgraceful”.

Kim Leadbeater is standing as Labour’s by-election candidate for the Batley and Spen seat, which her sibling used to represent before being killed.

Next week’s election comes almost exactly five years after Jo Cox was murdered by a far-right terrorist as she made her way to meet constituents in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

On Friday, a man shouted at Ms Leadbeater, asking her – supposedly on behalf of Muslim parents – what her views were on LGBT+ education in schools, as well as what her stance was on the situation in Kashmir.

In a video that appeared online, she asked him to lower his voice, before being followed by the group to a car.

“This is where I live, this is my community. Don’t come here and shout at me in the street. The Muslim community of Batley and Spen deserve better than this,” Ms Leadbeater told the main heckler.

Speaking to Byline Media later, the Labour candidate admitted it had been a “tough day”. In a statement, she said she was happy to participate in “robust political debate” but stressed that a line is crossed when it turns into “intimidatory behaviour”.

She added: “Is it any wonder that people, particularly women, don’t want to enter politics when stuff like this happens?

“For my family and friends to see this has caused a huge amount of distress. I’ve spent the last few years working on civility in public life, and today shows why that work is more important than ever.”

Politicians from across the aisle spoke out in support of her, with senior Labour MP Jess Phillips sending her “solidarity”, and former Conservative chair Baroness Warsi saying the incident was “awful”.

After seeing the clip, Labour leader Keir Starmer tweeted: “The abuse Kim Leadbeater has faced is disgraceful.

“The best way people can counter it is by voting for Labour and Kim next Thursday,” he added.

Mr Starmer also mentioned George Galloway – who is standing as a candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election – saying his “poisonous politics” were not welcome in this country.

The comment came after Ms Leadbeater said the controversial former MP had been present during the confrontation. “George Galloway was at the other side of the street laughing, and I was extremely intimidated,” she said.

In response, Mr Galloway said he had not been smirking and that the man abusing Ms Leadbeater had nothing to do with his campaign.

Earlier this month, HOPE not hate, a group which campaigns against racism and fascism, warned that the far right were seeking to raise their platform through the Batley and Spen by-election.

This is due to a row which ignited after a teacher at the constituency’s Batley Grammar School showed his religious studies class cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad on 22 March. When news of the incident spread, death threats were made against him, and he and his family had to be relocated by the police for their safety.

HOPE not hate has accused the far right of trying “to further inflame tensions and exploit press interest on this issue”, adding that five candidates in the upcoming election hold “far-right or radical-right” views.

The organisation describes Mr Galloway as a “divisive” candidate, who wants to “take advantage of local circumstances to further his own career – and ego”.

Additional reporting from PA

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