Batley and Spen residents are 'sick' of talking about Brexit and want to move forward, says Kim Leadbeater
The sister of murdered Jo Cox, who is bidding to become MP in her old constituency of Batley and Spen, says people in the area want to move on from Brexit and that she would be trying to maximise the opportunities presented by leaving the European Union.
Kim Leadbeater, who this month started her campaign as Labour's candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election to be held on July 1, said locals were "sick" of thinking and talking about Brexit and wanted to move forward.
She described the 2016 referendum, which saw voters in Batley and Spen back Brexit by a margin of 60-40, as a "very toxic time in politics". The UK formally severed its ties with the EU on December 31 last year.
Ms Leadbeater told The Yorkshire Post: "I had lots of family and friends who voted Leave, and I had lots of family and friends who voted Remain, which I think really reflected where the country was.
"And indeed that's what the statistics proved in the end. For me, I fell just on the side of Remain because I was worried about the economic fallout from Brexit.
"But ultimately, it was a tough decision, and I respect however anybody voted in the referendum, that was their choice. And what you can't do is give people a choice, and then say they got it wrong or take it away from them, we have to move forward now.
"But what I would be really clear to do as the MP would be holding the government to account on the opportunities that we are told Brexit is going to give us in Batley and Spen, and if it's not happening, I want to know why it's not happening and I want to know what we can do about it.
"So I think generally with Brexit, let's move on, but let's try and maximise opportunities that we've now got."
The by-election was triggered after Tracy Brabin had to quit Westminster following her election as the first mayor of West Yorkshire. The writ for the by-election was moved in the Commons by Labour, with the party saying polling day will take place on July 1.
Labour is defending a majority of 3,525 over the Tories from the 2019 general election and Sir Keir Starmer's party will be desperate to avoid losing another northern seat.
The party lost Hartlepool in a by-election on May 6 as another brick in the "red wall" of northern seats crumbled, with Ryan Stephenson hoping for a repeat performance as the Tory candidate in Batley and Spen.
Corey Robinson, a medical research engineer who designed a device that helps to repair damaged tendons in the hand has been selected as the Yorkshire Party's candidate.
In the December 2019 general election, Paul Halloran, representing the Heavy Woollen District Independents, came third in Batley and Spen, securing more than 6,000 votes – 12% of the total.
Mr Halloran has not yet confirmed whether he is standing on July 1.
The Liberal Democrats have chosen Jo Conchie, a TV producer and "community campaigner" who recently stood to be Cheshire's crime commissioner, as their candidate. And Ukip's candidate is Jack Thomson.
Veteran campaigner George Galloway, who was the MP for Bradford West between 2012 and 2015, is standing as a candidate for his Workers Party of Britain in the poll on July 1.
Campaigning in Batley and Spen could be complicated by coronavirus, with Kirklees one of the areas where people have been encouraged to “minimise travel” due to the spread of the Indian variant.
Ms Leadbeater, who established the Jo Cox Foundation in honour of her sister and recently joined Labour as a member, said the party was currently in a period of change.
She said: "It's a pivotal time for the Labour Party as we come out of a pandemic, it's a pivotal time for the country. And I think the Labour Party is very honest that it does need to change and it does need to do some things differently. And for me I want to be part of that process.
"And I think it's really important that the voices of people in Batley and Spen, who are natural Labour supporters, and those who are not natural Labour supporters are heard.
"So I think it's a challenging time, but I'm ready to take on that challenge. And I think keeping the Labour Party as a broad church where everybody is welcome is a really important message and certainly that's the message that I will be taking to the voters."