Kim Leadbeater warns little progress made on 'toxicity' in public life since murder of sister Jo Cox

Kim Leadbeater has warned little progress has been made in the “toxicity” those in public life face in the “tumultuous” five years since her sister was murdered.

Kim Leadbeater in her office at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, ahead of making her maiden speech in the House of Commons during a backbench debate on the legacy of her sister, murdered MP Jo Cox (PA/Stefan Rousseau)

The new MP for Batley and Spen spoke of how she is having to install security systems both at home in the constituency as well as in London, and that she carries “three attack alarms”.

Ms Leadbeater’s sister, Jo Cox, was killed in the constituency as she served as the MP for Batley and Spen just over five years ago, and her commitment to Mrs Cox’s legacy is “really one of the reasons” the former fitness instructor put herself up for election.

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“The political climate now is different, and sadly not necessarily better and I think that’s a really important thing to acknowledge,” Ms Leadbeater said from her office in Parliament.

“We’ve seen a tumultuous five years since Jo was killed and we’ve had a lot of toxicity in public life.

“We had Brexit which was very divisive. We are now healing some of those divisions and I think it’s really important that we do, but then we have the pandemic which has thrown global politics into unknown territory. “

Turning to the idea of civility in public life, Ms Leadbeater said she is “honestly not sure if things are any better” than when her sister was killed, and pointed to Parliamentarians still regularly being on the receiving end of abuse.

“I spoke to numerous MPs during my work at the Jo Cox Foundation, about the abuse that they received, and continue to receive, I then put myself through what ended up being a pretty toxic by-election campaign, and I’m now going through the processes and procedures of having security put on my home and my offices, and making sure my staff feel that they’re in a safe working environment, because of the abuse that so many people in public life have suffered over the last few years.

“So this clearly is an ongoing issue.

“I live in a world now where I carry three attack alarms with me, and they shouldn’t be like that”.

Ms Leadbeater gave her maiden speech in the House of Commons last Thursday, telling new colleagues that she would “give literally anything” not to be standing in her sister’s place as she pledged to “make the case” for the people of Batley and Spen and hold the Government to account on levelling up.