“I’ve got a bloody long list here, lads,” said Kim Leadbeater as she bounded away from a voter in the early days of the Batley and Spen byelection campaign.
On this occasion, parking was the issue that Leadbeater had added to her little notebook of voters’ complaints. As a local resident, she quickly grasped the issues often overlooked in the national narrative.
Leadbeater could not have foreseen, however, that the contest would soon turn from parking and potholes to Palestine, or that uniformed police would be required for protection in her home town.
Her election as MP for Batley and Spen on Friday morning followed one of the most divisive byelection campaigns for decades. There were homophobic slurs, dirty tricks, fake leaflets, violence. And in the middle of this ugly cacophony stood a newcomer to politics whose sister was murdered in this constituency just five years ago.
Leadbeater, 45, was incredibly close to her older…