Kim Leadbeater on Channel 4’s Dispatches tonight to discuss safety of MPs

A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary is set to air tonight (Monday) at 7.30pm featuring Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater.

By Jessica Barton
Monday, 23rd May 2022, 12:09 pm

The documentary - MPs Under Threat - reveals how nearly three quarters of MPs have been threatened with physical harm and how one in three female MPs have been threatened with sexual violence

In a TV first, Ms Leadbeater – the sister of Jo Cox, who was killed outside her constituency surgery in Birstall in 2016 by a far-right extremist – investigates the threats MPs face today.

Ms Leadbeater reveals the sheer scale of the abuse – in quantity, severity and relentlessness, as MPs describe the impact of death threats, threats of sexual violence and abuse – in some cases on a daily basis.

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Kim Leadbeater MP reveals the sheer scale of the abuse in tonight's Dispatches episode.

In the documentary, Ms Leadbeater explores the unprecedented levels of abuse MPs and their staff experience – and asks what this means for our democracy and the people our MPs represent.

Ms Leadbeater said: “The impact of the constant threats and abuse on my colleagues is clear but we don’t want people to feel sorry for us - we just want to be able to do our jobs properly.”

Last year, when Mrs Cox’s seat came up for election again, Ms Leadbeater made the difficult decision to stand as MP. Today it is exactly a year since the Labour Party in Batley and Spen selected her to be their candidate in the by-election for her sister’s former constituency.

When Ms Leadbeater was elected, she knew she had to be more conscious of her safety.

Despite hoping that her sister’s death was an isolated incident, in October last year another MP, Sir David Amess, was stabbed to death while holding his constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.

His death triggered a discussion around the safety of MPs, and prompted Ms Leadbeater to look more widely at the abuse and anger being directed at politicians in the UK.

Ms Leadbeater added: “I do carry panic alarms, and alarms with me in a way that I never, ever thought I would - I wouldn't feel safe without that.

“When David Amess was killed it was a real shock.

“I think there was a sense of disbelief as well, certainly, in political circles, that, ‘Oh my God, how could this happen again?’ Not that long after Jo was killed.

“I’ve not dealt with her murder - I haven’t dealt with it at all.”

The documentary also looks at the impact on MPs’ staff and shows Ms Leadbeater speaking to those who support her and the impact that the abuse and threats have on them.

Sandra Major MBE, constituency caseworker to Ms Leadbeater, explains why they continue their work despite the risks.

She said: “I do worry about Kim’s security and safety but you can’t let those people win because those are the people that are trying to destroy our democracy.

“At the minute if we give in to that, cower, or hide and say ‘oh no we daren’t do that’, we’re giving into them - we can never do that.”

While exploring solutions to combat the abuse and threats MPs face, Ms Leadbeater said: “I think important work is being done to make MPs feel safer, but also to make sure that the internet and particularly social media is a safe space for people to interact with each other without feeling threatened.

“Again, until we address some of the deeper issues around political discourse and extremism, then it’s really difficult to just put the sticking plasters over it.

“MPs and people in public life want to feel safe but like Jo and Sir David, we also want to be accessible.

“We must work hard to strike a balance between safety and protecting the democratic values we hold so dear.”

Dispatches: MPs Under Threat airs tonight (Monday, May 23) at 7.30pm on Channel 4.