Wednesday 16 June 2021 6:10 pm

Exclusive: Labour MPs have backroom row over by-election candidate doing Sun interview

A group of Labour MPs have hit out at the party’s candidate in a crucial by-election for doing an interview with The Sun, claiming the piece will cost Labour the constituency.

Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, recently did an interview with The Sun in the lead-up to the Batley and Spen by-election next month – a must win contest for leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Cox was MP for Batley and Spen when she was murdered five years ago today by a far-right extremist.

Leadbeater told The Sun that her sister “would want me to crack on with life and embrace it with all my heart”.

A number of Liverpool MPs and left-wing Corbynite MPs complained about the interview in a parliamentary Labour Party meeting on Monday.

They complained that The Sun’s reputation over the Hillsborough Disaster would tar the party’s campaign and that Leadbeater was wrong to do it.

There were claims by some at the meeting that the interview would cost Labour the by-election in the Yorkshire constituency.

Brent South MP Dawn Butler also reportedly complained about Leadbeater, saying that she was going to campaign in Batley and Spen with six activists but that four pulled out due to the interview.

A moderate Labour backbencher said the MPs complaining “still haven’t learnt” from the party’s crushing 2019 General Election defeat.

They said: “We need working class people to vote for us and what do they read? They read The Sun.

“It has a massive reach and we need to be getting their attention.”

A Labour frontbencher said the MPs complaining were speaking “complete nonsense”.

“You have to to speak to all the papers, regardless of what you think of them,” they said.

“The overwhelming view of MPs in the party was that the interview was a good idea.”

Labour has an uneasy relationship with The Sun, with Starmer saying in his leadership campaign last year that he would not do an interview with the News UK publication.

Much of Liverpool still boycotts the newspaper after it printed false allegations about the victims of the Hillsborough disaster – something it has apologised for.

The newspaper is also a target of hatred for the far left of the party for its attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and other left-wingers.

If Labour loses the Batley and Spen by-election it would mark the first ever time a government has gained two seats from by-elections in one parliamentary term, after the Tories’ victory in Hartlepool last month.

The Tories have been consistently polling more than 10 points higher than Labour throughout 2020.

Leadbeater’s task has been made more difficult by George Galloway who is standing to try and deny Labour a victory in an attempt to oust Starmer.

He is running for the Workers Party of Britain and is largely campaigning on the issue of Palestine in the constituency, which has thousands of Muslim voters.

A Labour spokesperson said: “It was a really good interview.

“We hope people in Batley and Spen had a chance to read it because it shows why Kim is the best and the local candidate in the by-election.”