The Labour MP said she would ‘give literally anything’ not to be making a speech in Parliament in the place of her murdered sister
Labour’s Kim Leadbeater has said she would “give literally anything not to be standing” in the Commons in place of her murdered sister Jo Cox.
In an emotional maiden speech, Kim said her sister’s murder “ripped the heart out of our family” and spoke of her “ongoing disbelief and devastation” at Jo’s death.
Kim, who was elected as MP for Batley and Spen in July, said her sister’s belief that we have “more in common than that which divides us” remains true today.
Watched from the public gallery by her parents Gordon and Jean, Kim reflected on her sister’s “extraordinary” contribution to politics during her “tragically short time” in the Commons.
“Others are better qualified to reflect on her talents as a parliamentarian and for me she’ll always be many other things before an MP,” she said.
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“A compassionate and caring humanitarian, a proud Yorkshire lass, a friend to many – including a significant number of those who are sat today – a loving daughter and I’m delighted that our parents Jean and Gordon are here today, a fantastic sister-in-law and wife, an outstanding mum to Cuillin and Lejla – who remain full of Jo’s energy, optimism and spirit – and the best big sister anybody could ask for.”
In her first address to MPs, Kim joked that Parliament was like Hogwarts, saying: “Nobody gave me a book of spells or taught me how to play Quidditch, but here I am.”
She described the pride and responsibility she felt at being elected, but added: “As the House does my family the great honour of paying tribute to my sister, I hope members will understand that I mean no disrespect to this place when I say that I’d give literally anything not to be standing here today in her place.”
The 45-year-old said her sister’s murder in 2016 “ripped the heart out of our family”.
“I’ve spoken on many occasions about my ongoing disbelief and devastation following her death – and it still doesn’t feel real, today more than ever,” she said.
“And it was devastating for the people of Batley and Spen too because so many of them had also taken her to their hearts.”
Jo Cox’s belief that people have “more in common than that which divides us” remains true today, she said.
Kim went on: “Perhaps even more so. But my sister would never have pretended that we don’t have our differences and disagreements, and nor do I.
“Of course, we do, and the world would be a very dull place if we didn’t, but we should also have the ability to respect each other’s opinions when we disagree and the good sense to know that our communities can only thrive when they embrace each and every one of us.”
She vowed to bring “straight-talking Yorkshire grit” to Parliament and to hold the Government to account over its levelling up agenda.
Johnston Press / SWNS.com)
“We don’t like to be taken for fools,” she said.
“Fine words about levelling up are all well and good but what we have seen in Batley and Spen over the last decade are drastically reduced police numbers, huge cuts to the road repair budget, growing poverty and inequality and queues outside our food banks.
“There are areas of my constituency that are desperate for investment. I will be holding the Government to account to ensure Batley and Spen gets the fair share of whatever levelling up money is going, so that it goes to the people and communities who need it most.”
Kim emerged victorious in fraught by-election in July, when Labour hung on with a majority of 323 votes.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “We’re all moved, we’ll always think of your sister.
“I know you’re going to be a great member of Parliament.”