Published On: Wed, Jul 3rd, 2024
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Jo Cox’s sister Kim Leadbeater opens up on life without her in new interview | UK | News


The sister of murdered MP Jo Cox has spoken about the psychological effects her death had on her and the abuse politicians face from the public.

Kim Leadbeater MBE, who took over from Jo as MP for Batley and Spen, recalled how her sister was a motivating force in her life and how she initially struggled to cope with the thought of being an only child after she died.

Jo, was a British politician who served as Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen from May 2015 until her murder in June 2016. She would have turned 50 on June 24.

Speaking in an interview on The Defuse Global Podcast with Philip Grindell, who specialises in providing MP security, Kim, who is standing for election in Spen Valley later this week, said: “Jo was one of these people who would always say you should be doing more, that you should be challenging yourself, and that you should be pushing yourself. I was just about to do my master’s degree in June 2016, when Jo was killed. Everything changed forever.

“One issue for me was around identity. When Jo was killed, I suddenly became an only child. Before then it was me and Jo, and we’ve been so close as children. So that was a really, really difficult thing for me to get my head around.”

Kim said she had mixed feelings about becoming an MP. It wasn’t a path she set out. But she does recall that a teacher once told her she felt she’d be more likely to become a Prime Minister one day.

“The reason I am in politics is because my sister was murdered. I will be honest about that,” Kim said.

“Having said that, I was always very interested in politics which was why, bizarrely, at primary school, a teacher said: ‘Oh, she’ll be Prime Minister one day.’ It stuck with me.

“In contrast, Jo was very shy but actually that’s made what Jo went on to achieve even more impressive, as far as I’m concerned.

“She actually really had to work on building her confidence, which she did over a number of years. And what I learned through watching Jo do the job, is that politics is about people. Everything that happens in Parliament in Westminster affects people up and down the country. And I feel really passionately that we need good people in politics.”

She added: “I think even though I’ve had to reconcile what my life looks like now in lots of different ways, I’ve got to keep reminding myself that I am here for the right reasons.

“But now I’m here, I’m determined that I’m going to make as much of a positive difference as I possibly can, even though the route that brought me there was the most horrific one you can imagine.”

Kim said the level of abuse towards MPs has steadily increased over the years and ensuring their personal safety has become a huge issue.

“Genuinely, I feel safe,” Kim said. “I feel fine, but I’ve had so many conversations with MPs who have had huge amounts of abuse, be that via social media, be that via email, be that by people turning up at their office.

“So, you always are aware that there is that underlying level of, you know, that this isn’t a normal life anymore. You are a target in some respects, and that never really leaves you.”

Discussing the problems MPs face when deciding how to best arrange their security Kim continued: “One of the big problems you’ve got is who’s going to pay for it? Ultimately, if you try to convince taxpayers that it’s really important that political candidates and potential MPs are looked after, and their safety and security is taken care of at the expense of other things, then that’s a really, really difficult argument to make.

“My worry is it will put people off wanting to put themselves forward, particularly women, particularly young women. You see the abuse that people get, and the threats that are made and you might be left thinking, why bother?”

“I think more needs to be done. But what does that look like? And how is it funded? And they’re really challenging questions. The threat isn’t just towards an individual politician. It’s also to the broader network of people around them. And that’s unpleasant and upsetting.

“I think there’s so much that we could change about politics. The other big thing for me is political education. We should be teaching young people about how the country is run, what it all looks like, what MPs do, what councils do, who makes the decisions that affect their lives, that then might get people a bit more engaged.

Kim added: “I guess the other thing we need is a change of culture. As my sister said, it’s about focusing on the things that we have in common, rather than the things that divide us. And that’s not just in politics. I think that’s in society, more generally, just reconnecting on a human level, and being a bit more understanding about other people’s lives.”



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