Labour politician Kim Leadbeater has used her maiden Commons speech to pay a heartfelt and emotional tribute to her late sister Jo Cox.
As well as describing Cox as the “best big sister anybody could ask for” she also used her speech to spread a message of unity: “We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.”
Jo Cox was elected as MP for the Batley and Spen constituency in May 2015 but was murdered on 16 June, 2016.
Cox was on her way to meet constituents at a surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire when her killer, Thomas Mair, shot her twice in the head and once in the chest, then stabbed her fifteen times in an attack that sent shockwaves through a horrified nation. It subsequently emerged that Mair had neo-Nazi links and he was later jailed for life.
Cox’s sister Kim Leadbeater has since been elected as MP for Batley and Spen following a by-election, and in a passionate and charged tribute said she would “give literally anything not to be standing” in the place of her sister.
She began her speech by explaining: “I hope members will understand that I mean no disrespect to this place when I say I would give literally anything not to be standing here today in her place.
“Others are better qualified than I am to reflect on her talents as a parliamentarian, and for me she will always be many other things before an MP.
“A compassionate and caring humanitarian. A proud Yorkshire lass. A friend to many, including a significant number of those who are sat here today.”
Leadbeater rounded off her speech by quoting her sister directly, saying: “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.
“If I can be half the MP my sister was, then it will be a huge privilege to get on with the job of representing the people of Batley and Spen.”
Leadbeater was a surprise candidate for the Batley and Spen byelection, called when her predecessor and Jo’s friend, Tracy Brabin, was elected West Yorkshire mayor.
Running was “the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make”, Leadbeater told the Guardian, one which took much deliberation with her parents and partner, Claire.
She was confronted by Shakeel Afsar, a Birmingham activist who campaigns against inclusive relationship and sex education in English schools.
Afsar shouted at Leadbeater, telling her he has “seen through the Labour lies”, and complained about children learning about “sensitive sexual relationships” in schools.
“Why would you shout at a woman on the street?” Leadbeater responded, before adding: “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.”
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