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Kim Leadbeater Echoes Sister Jo Cox With Moving “More In Common” Maiden Speech

Kim Leadbeater Echoes Sister Jo Cox With Moving “More In Common” Maiden Speech

Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater paid tribute to her sister Jo Cox - who was murdered in 2016 - during her maiden speech on Thursday (Parliamentlive.tv)

5 min read

Newly-elected Labour MP for Batley and Spen Kim Leadbeater echoed the words of her sister Jo Cox in her maiden speech, which took place during a special debate paying tribute to MP, who was murdered in 2016.

Leadbeater joined the Commons in July after winning a by-election in her home constituency of Batley and Spen — the same seat formerly held by Cox from 2015 until her death in 2016. 

She was killed by a far-right terrorist in the constituency's town of Birstall in the midst of the contentious Brexit referendum campaign. 

“Time and again when others have sought to set us against each other, we have come together,” Leadbeater told the Commons on Thursday. 

“When we have been riven by violence, or the politics of hatred and division, we have shown the best of ourselves: generosity, warmth, respect, tolerance and love.

Leadbeater continued: “Jo said in her maiden speech that, as she travelled around the constituency, she was surprised time and time again by the fact that we are far more united, and have far more in common, than that which divides us. 

“I believe those words are as true today as when she said them, perhaps even more so.”

The Labour MP also paid tribute to her sister’s “energy, optimism, and spirit” and said “the love and respect she earned across this Chamber is a testament to the very special qualities”.

“I'm sure every new MP experiences the same mixture of pride and responsibility that I'm feeling right now,” she said. 

“But, 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 would give literally anything, not to be standing here today in her place.”

Jo’s husband Brendan Cox, as well the sisters’ parents Jean and Gordon, were watching the debate from the Commons gallery. 

Jo Cox was succeeded by Labour MP Tracy Brabin in a by-election held the same year, who eventually stood down from the seat after successfully running to become the first Mayor of West Yorkshire in the 2021 local elections. 

Leadbeater joked that travelling to Parliament for the first time following the by-election ten weeks earlier had been like getting “on a train to Hogwarts”.

“I come to the job, as I'm sure [my predecessors] all did, with a determination to do things in my own unique way,” she said.

“I couldn't do anything else. People may make comparisons — and they are of course entitled to — but I'm very much my own person.

“I will always be true to myself proud of where I come from, and ready to crack on and get stuff done, no matter how big the challenges may be.”

Leadbeater also took aim at the government’s levelling up agenda, suggesting people in her constituency “don’t like being taken for fools”.

“With respect I say to the party opposite that fine words about levelling up are all well and good, but what we've seen instead in Batley and Spen over the last decade are drastically reduced police numbers, huge cuts to the roads repair budgets, growing poverty and inequality, and queues outside our food banks. 

“There are areas of my constituency that are desperate for investment, and I will be holding the government to account to ensure that Batley and Spen gets its fair share of whatever levelling up money is going.”

Leadbeater’s words attracted praise from both sides of the house. Conservative MP Tom Tugenhat praised Cox’s “extraordinary passion” which he said he was “delighted to see has returned to this House in [Leadbeater]”.

“She’s demonstrated that the family that gave birth to one extraordinary child, and raised her, has achieved that a second time and for that I pay the most extraordinary tribute to a fantastic mother and father,” he continued. 

Labour MP Steven Kinnock said: “[Leadbeater] stood for office with such courage, given the circumstances, and she spoke today… with such heartfelt passion about why she has stepped up, why she has taken responsibility, and why she will help us take forward the legacy of her sister.” 

Writing on Twitter, shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard described the speech as “honest, passionate and brave”.

“She is already a superb MP like her sister Jo, and Tracy Brabin before her. We need more brilliant women like Kim in politics,” Pollard said. 

Leadbeater’s predecessor Brabin also commended her maiden speech, calling it “funny, emotional, heart-warming and inspiring”.

“Batley and Spen couldn’t be in better, kinder or safer hands,” she added.

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