ONE OF Labour’s potential candidates to contest the Batley and Spen by-election has appealed to the party to unite behind whoever is elected leader on Saturday.
Jane Thomas declined to describe herself as a Jeremy Corbyn supporter but warned Labour could not afford a repeat of the division seen over the last year.
Mrs Thomas and actress and writer Tracy Brabin have been shorlisted to be Labour’s candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election triggered by the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in June.
Local Labour members will have the final say on which name will go on the ballot paper after a hustings event on Friday night which comes just hours before the culmination of the party’s leadership election.
Mrs Thomas said: “Am I a Jeremy Corbyn supporter? No. I haven’t played a role in Momentum, I haven’t gone to any Momentum meetings.”
She continued: “The hustings is on Friday, on Saturday there will be a leader and that’s it and I will just get behind whoever is the leader because we have to.”
Mrs Thomas said Labour had spent the last six months “navel gazing”.
“At some stage if we are going to demonstrate we are electable we have got to walk the walk and talk the talk and we’ve got to have some really good campaign wins under our belt to demonstrate to people that we are the progressive left party that people wants and needs to deliver for people in marginalised commu nities,” she said.
Mrs Thomas stood as Labour’s candidate in Keighley at the 2010 general election but for family reasons chose not to put herself forward to contest a seat last year.
However, she was inspired to seek the Batley and Spen nomination following the abuse she saw during the EU referendum campaign and the shock at Mrs Cox’s death.
She said: “There’s something going on, there’s an ugly side and you either stand up and confront it and try and make things better or you turn the other cheek.
“I want to see more strong feisty women in public life, as councillors, on boards, as MPs, in business.
“We’ve got to address that nasty underbelly that seems to be emerging in some bits of our public life.”
Mrs Thomas also expressed concern that some communities in Yorkshire are in danger of being left behind by the Government’s drive for economic growth in the North known as the ‘northern powerhouse’.
Potential candidates were interviewed on Monday and there has been a degree of surprise that the party chose to put just two candidates in front of constituency members.
Mrs Thomas said: “In an ideal world the party should have had more time to look us up and down, see what they think of us and probably should have had a bigger choice to select from.
“But I do understand that this is an area that’s not had an MP since June 16 and everyday that goes by without an MP is a day where somebody is not represented and a day when a community fails to have its needs met so I do understand why they are doing it quite quicky.
“At least we are quite different. At least there is some degree of choice in a very narrow field.”
The by-election is due to take place on Thursday, October 20.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have already indicated they will not be fielding candidates. However, some smaller parties are expected to contest the election.