Leeds council health chief says no to Batley and Spen by-election contest

Leeds City Council executive board member Coun Salma Arif has ruled herself out of the Batley & Spen by-election, following reports linking her with Tracy Brabin’s old Parliamentary seat.

Monday, 17th May 2021, 3:31 pm
Updated Monday, 17th May 2021, 3:32 pm

As part of her new role as West Yorkshire mayor, Ms Brabin cannot continue to sit as an MP, leading to her resignation following her election last weekend.

The seat will now be contested at a by-election, with speculation surfacing in the past week that Coun Arif might stand in the seat for the party.

However, in a statement posted to Coun Arif’s Twitter account, she said her focus would be on getting Leeds through the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Coun Arif says she will not stand in the upcoming contest.

It read: “Thank you to everyone who has contacted me over the last few weeks and encouraged me to stand in Batley & Spen, I am incredibly grateful for the support.

“As a former participant of Labour’s Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme, to be considered by some members as a worthy successor to Jo is truly humbling.

“As a cabinet member for public health my immediate focus is steering Leeds out of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuring the safety of our residents as the city transitions out of lockdown.

“I look forward to working as part of the campaign team to elect a new Labour MP for Batley & Spen.”

Coun Arif had been mentioned as a possible candidate for Labour, along with the sister of Jo Cox, Kim Leadbeater.

In a statement released this weekend, Kirklees Council leader Shabir Pandor – previously a favourite for the nomination himself – endorsed Ms Leadbeater for the nomination.

The statement read: “As council leader, I know the challenges we face in Batley. Kim knows them too, but she also understands the people who live here because she’s rooted in the community. Together, I know we can work together to improve the lives of people across Batley and Spen.”

No official date for the by-election has yet been set, but it is understood to be at some point this summer.