The speech made by Kim Leadbeater, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, in the House of Commons on 18 October 2021.
I spent a lot of time over the weekend thinking about what to say if I were called today—and indeed whether to say anything at all, because I did not know David personally. It has been a traumatic few days for many people, and none more so than David’s family and friends; it is they who remain at the forefront of my mind this afternoon. Sadly, I know from my own all too similar experience that in reality there is nothing that anyone can say to make things all right for them—but nor is it any use to stay silent, so I welcome this opportunity to pay tribute to someone who was clearly a well-respected and much-loved colleague to many people in this place.
For reasons that I would never wish on any other Member of this House, or indeed anyone, I have a unique perspective on what those closest to David are going through. I send them love, support and solidarity from me, my parents, our family and the people of Batley and Spen.
I have blocked out much of what happened when Jo was murdered, but I remember very clearly the moment when I took the phone call saying that she had been attacked. I remember physically trembling, and the visceral pain that overtook me. It breaks my heart to think that another family have had to experience that phone call and the nightmare that follows. It is a rollercoaster of deep trauma that no one should have to experience. I also know that David’s family will still be in utter shock, as I know many Members are, but I hope that at some point they will be able to hear at least some of the beautiful and very funny tributes that have been paid to him today, and that that will provide a morsel of comfort amid their pain.
I cannot talk about David on a personal level—as I say, I did not know him—but from what I have heard, he strikes me as the sort of MP I might well have come across in the coming months and ended up going for a cuppa with, to hear his thoughts on his work on a children’s Parliament, on animal welfare or on getting more support for people with learning disabilities. We would have been two Back-Bench MPs from different parties and different parts of the country discussing issues close to our hearts, and I imagine it would have been a lot of fun. Sadly, that day will never come.
I know that wider discussions will now take place about the safety of MPs, the awful abuse and intimidation that we face, the nature of political discourse and how we can deal with the evils of terrorism. It is quite right that they do, but today is about David and his family, along with his staff, his colleagues and the community he served so well; the service he gave; and the support we should show all of them in the coming days, weeks and months. It is up to us to make sure that we do that, because I know more than most that they will need it, and the powerful difference that it will make to them.