The new Batley and Spen MP referred to how “toxic” things were when her sister Jo Cox was murdered in the constituency in 2016 and “sadly how things probably haven’t got much better” as she condemned the “disgusting” racism faced by some members of the England football team since their Euros final appearance.
Ms Leadbeater asked “how can we encourage people to treat other with civility, even when we disagree”, as she discussed her priorities as a Parliamentarian after two weeks in Westminster.
She told The Yorkshire Post: “I’ve got bitter experience of how toxicity in public life can be irretrievably damaging to a family and to a community, and I think there’s a lot of work to do on that.
“Whether that’s through working with social media companies, whether it’s through working with community organisations.”
Social media firms have come under intense scrutiny once again following accusations of abusive messages sent to several black members of the England team following their loss to Italy on penalties last week.
“All the stuff that’s going on at the minute with racism in football, it’s disgusting to think that in 2021 we’re still dealing with some of those issues.
“I think there’s something around not just politicians, but anybody who ends up in the public arena, whether that’s through politics or show business or sport.”
“How can we make sure that they’re treated with respect?,” she asked.
Referring to hateful messages she has experienced, Ms Leadbeater went on: “You look on Twitter, you look on Facebook and all those things - it’s soul destroying to see the abuse that people think it’s acceptable to put out towards you.”
The election campaign in the West Yorkshire constituency was marred with accusations of intimidation and abuse, as Labour canvassers alleged they were pelted with eggs and a video of Ms Leadbeater being confronted in the street by a man who challenged her stance on LGBT education in schools went viral on social media.
“We’ve done work through Jo’s foundation for the last few years about civility in public life and how toxic it was when Jo was murdered, and sadly how things probably haven’t got much better.
“The by-election campaign showed to me how bad it can get. We can’t have a situation where people are being attacked in the street and having things thrown at them and people just screaming at each other.
“I just think that’s not what this country needs. That’s not what the community of Batley and Spen needed.”