Share

Voters in the West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen are heading to the polls in a crunch by-election which is being widely touted as a referendum on Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party.  

Labour is defending a 3,525 majority in the Red Wall seat today but the bookies have the Tories as odds-on favourites to win. A recent Survation constituency poll put the Conservatives on 47 per cent, up 11 per cent from the 2019 general election, with Labour on 41 per cent. 

While turnout will be significantly down on the 66.5 per cent attained at the 2019 General Election, Labour and hard-Left George Galloway’s Workers Party both said they expected voters to come out to polling stations across the northern constituency. 

Labour activists were out canvassing hard in the constituency’s major towns, Batley, Heckmondwike and Birstall today. The contest is vital for Sir Keir’s leadership after Labour’s by-electon defeat in Hartlepool and a series of local elections dubbed ‘Super Thursday’ in May. 

The by-election was seen as a straight fight between Labour’s Kim Leadbeater, a former Coronation Street actress and the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, and Tory candidate Ryan Stephenson – but the arrival of hard-Left insurgent George Galloway provided an extra headache for Labour’s campaign managers. 

Mr Galloway has said he has been targeting Labour’s traditional Asian and white working-class coalition in an explicit attempt to topple Sir Keir, whose leadership is the source of frenzied speculation at Westminster. 

Sir Keir’s spokesman has insisted he will not resign if Labour lose, but new polling this week suggested that as many as four in 10 party members would want him to stand down and make for new leadership in the wake of a loss.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner was forced to deny reports in the Times that she had been canvassing support from MPs and trade unions if she were to mount a leadership challenge if Labour lose the by-election today.   

A close ally of Miss Rayner told the newspaper: ‘There’s definitely been people sounding out the possibility – it’s clear she’d easily reach 40 nominations – and urging her to run if the worst happens in Batley.’ 

However, the Ashton under Lyne MP tweeted to say the story was ‘news to me’. Her allies told the Guardian that Miss Rayner does not want to stand now and that they are concerned about the risk to her reputation if she stabs Sir Keir in the back.

The Labour leader’s spokesman insisted on Wednesday that he is on a ‘four-year path’ to lead the party back into power and would not be standing down if he oversaw another electoral defeat. He played down the prospect of a victory by saying it ‘has always been a marginal seat’ and that winning ‘was always going to be challenging’. 

Labour party candidate Kim Leadbeater leaves Norristhorpe United Reformed Church polling station after casting her vote in the West Yorkshire constituency by-election at Batley and Spen

Labour party candidate Kim Leadbeater leaves Norristhorpe United Reformed Church polling station after casting her vote in the West Yorkshire constituency by-election at Batley and Spen

Labour party candidate Kim Leadbeater leaves Norristhorpe United Reformed Church polling station after casting her vote in the West Yorkshire constituency by-election at Batley and Spen

Voters in the West Yorkshire constituency of Batley & Spen are heading to the polls in a crunch by-election which is being widely touted as a referendum on Sir Keir Starmer's leadership of the Labour Party

Voters in the West Yorkshire constituency of Batley & Spen are heading to the polls in a crunch by-election which is being widely touted as a referendum on Sir Keir Starmer's leadership of the Labour Party

Voters in the West Yorkshire constituency of Batley & Spen are heading to the polls in a crunch by-election which is being widely touted as a referendum on Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party

Voters in the West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen are going to the polls in a by-election touted as a fundamental test of Sir Keir Starmer's leadership of the Labour Party

Voters in the West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen are going to the polls in a by-election touted as a fundamental test of Sir Keir Starmer's leadership of the Labour Party

Voters in the West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen are going to the polls in a by-election touted as a fundamental test of Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party

Labour is defending a majority of more than 3,000 in the seat but the bookies have the Conservatives as odds-on favourites to follow up their victory in Hartlepool in May and heap further pressure on Sir Keir

Labour is defending a majority of more than 3,000 in the seat but the bookies have the Conservatives as odds-on favourites to follow up their victory in Hartlepool in May and heap further pressure on Sir Keir

Labour is defending a majority of more than 3,000 in the seat but the bookies have the Conservatives as odds-on favourites to follow up their victory in Hartlepool in May and heap further pressure on Sir Keir

Labour is under pressure after it circulated a leaflet critical of Boris Johnson's diplomatic dealings with Indian president Narendra Modi - a Hindu nationalist - in an area with a sizable Muslim population

Labour is under pressure after it circulated a leaflet critical of Boris Johnson's diplomatic dealings with Indian president Narendra Modi - a Hindu nationalist - in an area with a sizable Muslim population

Labour is under pressure after it circulated a leaflet critical of Boris Johnson’s diplomatic dealings with Indian president Narendra Modi – a Hindu nationalist – in an area with a sizable Muslim population

Earlier this week, Labour lashed out over a fake leaflet which purported to have been released by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) highlighting party leader Keir Starmer's support for Black Lives Matter in a bid to hit his popularity among working class white voters

Earlier this week, Labour lashed out over a fake leaflet which purported to have been released by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) highlighting party leader Keir Starmer's support for Black Lives Matter in a bid to hit his popularity among working class white voters

Earlier this week, Labour lashed out over a fake leaflet which purported to have been released by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) highlighting party leader Keir Starmer’s support for Black Lives Matter in a bid to hit his popularity among working class white voters

Sixteen people running to become new Batley & Spen MP 

The Batley & Spen by-election will be contested by 16 people from the hard left to far right of politics.

Kim Leadbeater, the sister of the areas’s murdered former MP Jo Cox is running for Labour. But she is up against former Labour MP George Galloway who is running for the Workers Party.

This could play into the hands of Tory Ryan Stephenson, who is the favourite to take the seat.

On the far right, Jayda Fransen, the former Britain First leader, is standing as an independent, And former UKIP leadership candidate Anne Marie Waters is standing for her For Britain Movement. 

The full list of candidates is:  

  • Paul Bickerdike, Christian Peoples Alliance
  • Mike Davies, Alliance for Green Socialism
  • Jayda Fransen, Independent
  • George Galloway, Workers Party
  • Tom Gordon, Liberal Democrats
  • Therese Hirst, English Democrats
  • Howling Laud Hope, Official Monster Raving Loony Party
  • Susan Laird, Heritage Party
  • Kim Leadbeater, Labour Party
  • Ollie Purser, Social Democratic Party
  • Corey Robinson, Yorkshire Party
  • Andrew Smith, Rejoin EU
  • Ryan Stephenson, Conservative Party
  • Jack Thomson, UK Independence Party
  • Jonathan Tilt, Freedom Alliance
  • Anne Marie Waters, The For Britain Movement

 

<!—->

Advertisement

There is a prospect of a backbench revolt if the seat is lost but it is unclear if any challenger would be able to secure the support of the 40 Labour MPs needed to trigger a leadership contest.

Tensions have flared between Mr Galloway’s Workers Party and Labour supporters in recent weeks as both sides bid for the support of the area’s various Asian communities by grandstanding on international issues including Kashmir and Palestine.

Sir Keir’s party was accused of stoking racial and sectarian tension after distributing campaign leaflets criticising Boris Johnson’s diplomatic dealings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – a Hindu nationalist – in an area with a sizable Pakistani Muslim population.

Last week, supporters of former Labour MP Mr Galloway were accused of using the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas in Palestine – and the Jewish heritage of Sir Keir’s wife – to attack Labour.

And last Friday, Sir Keir condemned as ‘disgraceful’ the abuse Labour candidate Miss Leadbeater faced from a man who challenged her over the situation in Kashmir and her stance on LGBT+ education in schools amid what he said were concerns from Muslim parents.    

The B&S by-election campaign has also focused on hyper-local issues such as the suspension of a teacher at Batley Grammar School after he showed a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad to a blasphemy class and the closure of the Batley Police Station.   

An elderly Labour activist was allegedly physically attacked and pelted with eggs last week – with West Yorkshire Police confirming an 18-year-old man from Batley had been arrested on suspicion of assault in connection with an attack on the group of canvassers.

Ms Leadbeater is the sister of former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in the constituency by a neo-Nazi terrorist during the 2016 referendum on EU membership. She cast her vote early on Thursday morning in the Liversedge area of the seat, giving a thumbs-up to waiting photographers.

Ms Leadbeater has stressed she is the only one of the 16 candidates eligible to vote because she lives and works in the constituency. 

The Conservatives believe they are in a strong position to take the B&S seat, which would heap more pressure on Sir Keir to step down or face a leadership challenge. But their candidate Mr Stephenson has been dubbed ‘The Invisible Man’ and ‘Where’s Wally’ by his rivals amid claims he has avoided media scrutiny.  

Labour party candidate Kim Leadbeater leaves Norristhorpe United Reformed Church polling station after casting her vote in the West Yorkshire constituency by-election at Batley and Spen

Labour party candidate Kim Leadbeater leaves Norristhorpe United Reformed Church polling station after casting her vote in the West Yorkshire constituency by-election at Batley and Spen

Labour party candidate Kim Leadbeater leaves Norristhorpe United Reformed Church polling station after casting her vote in the West Yorkshire constituency by-election at Batley and Spen

Labour party candidate Kim Leadbeater leaves Norristhorpe United Reformed Church polling station today after casting her vote in the West Yorkshire constituency

Labour party candidate Kim Leadbeater leaves Norristhorpe United Reformed Church polling station today after casting her vote in the West Yorkshire constituency

Labour party candidate Kim Leadbeater leaves Norristhorpe United Reformed Church polling station today after casting her vote in the West Yorkshire constituency

Ms Leadbeater is the sister of former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in the constituency in 2016

Ms Leadbeater is the sister of former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in the constituency in 2016

Ms Leadbeater is the sister of former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in the constituency in 2016

The Batley and Spen by-election was triggered after Tracy Brabin, who won the seat for Labour in 2019 with a 3,525 majority over the Conservatives, was elected as the mayor of West Yorkshire in May. 

Earlier this week, Labour’s former MP in the seat, Tracey Brabin, who quit after being elected mayor of West Yorkshire, also claimed last night that activists had been pelted with eggs and kicked in the head while on the campaign trail.

Miss Brabin said she was leafleting with ‘colleagues, volunteers, campaigners’ in Batley on Sunday when they ‘were followed, verbally abused and physically assaulted by a group of young men’. She said: ‘The group I was with included young people and the elderly. I witnessed them being egged, pushed and forced to the ground and kicked in the head.’

West Yorkshire Police confirmed on Sunday evening that they were investigating, and Miss Brabin – who also holds the police and crime commissioner responsibility for the region – praised officers for their swift response.

But she added: ‘We know why tensions are rising in our streets. Those who want to sow division are not welcome in our community. The actions of these people do not represent the Batley and Spen I know. We are kinder than this.’

Labour MP for Halifax Holly Lynch added: ‘There has been a series of increasingly serious and violent attacks in recent days and this is absolutely unacceptable. Lawless thugs are seeking to intimidate and attack those involved in the proper democratic process.’ 

Residents are voting amid accusations of foul play. Earlier this week, Labour lashed out over a fake leaflet allegedly released by the Trades Union Congress which highlighted Sir Keir Starmer’s support for Black Lives Matter in a bid to hit his popularity among white working-class voters.

The TUC said it was part of a ‘dirty tricks campaign’ and that those responsible ‘should be ashamed of themselves’. 

Allies of Angela Rayner ‘are laying the groundwork for her to launch a leadership challenge against Sir Keir Starmer’ if Labour loses crunch Batley and Spen by-election today

Allies of Angela Rayner have been laying the groundwork for her to launch a leadership challenge against Sir Keir Starmer if Labour lose today’s crunch Batley and Spen by-election. 

Supporters of the deputy leader are said to have been canvassing Labour MPs and trade unions to see if they would support a bid to oust Sir Keir.

Ms Rayner would need the backing of 20 per cent of the Parliamentary Labour Party, 40 MPs, in order to force a contest which would see the incumbent automatically added to the ballot paper.

Supporters of Sir Keir believe that Ms Rayner is ‘on manoeuvres’ and they are braced for a challenge. 

It comes after Sir Keir vowed he will not resign even if Labour loses today’s crucial by-election.

Allies of Angela Rayner have been laying the groundwork for her to launch a leadership challenge against Sir Keir Starmer if Labour lose today's crunch Batley and Spen by-election

Allies of Angela Rayner have been laying the groundwork for her to launch a leadership challenge against Sir Keir Starmer if Labour lose today's crunch Batley and Spen by-election

Allies of Angela Rayner have been laying the groundwork for her to launch a leadership challenge against Sir Keir Starmer if Labour lose today’s crunch Batley and Spen by-election

Supporters of the deputy leader are said to have been canvassing Labour MPs and trade unions to see if they would support a bid to oust Sir Keir

Supporters of the deputy leader are said to have been canvassing Labour MPs and trade unions to see if they would support a bid to oust Sir Keir

Supporters of the deputy leader are said to have been canvassing Labour MPs and trade unions to see if they would support a bid to oust Sir Keir

The Batley constituency in West Yorkshire has voted Labour since 1997, but there are real concerns in the party that it could be seized by the Conservatives

The Batley constituency in West Yorkshire has voted Labour since 1997, but there are real concerns in the party that it could be seized by the Conservatives

The Batley constituency in West Yorkshire has voted Labour since 1997, but there are real concerns in the party that it could be seized by the Conservatives 

The Batley constituency in West Yorkshire has voted Labour since 1997, but there are real concerns in the party that it could be seized by the Conservatives.

Polling published yesterday suggested as many as four in ten Labour members would want Sir Keir to stand down after a loss there.

The Labour leader is already under pressure after the party lost the Hartlepool by-election and performed poorly at ‘Super Thursday’ local elections back in May. 

A defeat at the ballot box today will inevitably reignite questions over his long term leadership of the party, with Ms Rayner reportedly being told by supporters to challenge Sir Keir if Labour loses.  

A close ally of Ms Rayner told The Times: ‘There’s definitely been people sounding out the possibility – it’s clear she’d easily reach 40 nominations – and urging her to run if the worst happens in Batley.’

Hard-left Labour MPs said they had been approached by supporters of Ms Rayner, with one telling the newspaper: ‘Angela’s people are speaking to a number of comrades. Sections of the party would back her without doubt.’ 

However, in a sign that Sir Keir’s inner circle now view a leadership challenge as increasingly likely, a source close to the leader said: ‘It would be very silly for Angela to try anything. But, like many people, she is on manoeuvres.’

Ms Rayner tweeted: ‘The ‘story’ on the front page of [The Times] tomorrow is news to me.’  

Her spokesman said: ‘Anybody doing that [canvassing for support] is not doing it under instructions from Angela or with Angela’s backing. Angela is focused entirely on her jobs.’  

Sir Keir’s spokesman insisted yesterday that he is on a ‘four-year path’ to lead the party back into power and will not stand down if he oversees another electoral defeat. 

The spokesman played down the prospect of victory for his party in Batley by saying it ‘has always been a marginal seat’ and that winning ‘was always going to be challenging’. 

‘Keir is not going to resign,’ he responded when asked by journalists at a Westminster briefing. 

He added: ‘Keir has been absolutely clear that this is a four-year path to get back into power and he is determined to lead the party into the next general election and to take us back into government.’

A poll published yesterday showed that 41 per cent of Labour members would want Sir Keir to stand down and make way for fresh leadership if Batley and Spen is lost.

But 48 per cent would back Sir Keir to remain in place regardless, according to the YouGov survey for Sky News of 871 members conducted over the past week, which had the remaining 11 per cent as undecided over his fate.

Labour party candidate Kim Leadbeater leaves Norristhorpe United Reformed Church polling station after casting her vote in the Batley and Spen by-election

Labour party candidate Kim Leadbeater leaves Norristhorpe United Reformed Church polling station after casting her vote in the Batley and Spen by-election

Labour party candidate Kim Leadbeater leaves Norristhorpe United Reformed Church polling station after casting her vote in the Batley and Spen by-election

The polls are due to close this evening with the result expected to be announced in the early hours of Friday morning

The polls are due to close this evening with the result expected to be announced in the early hours of Friday morning

The polls are due to close this evening with the result expected to be announced in the early hours of Friday morning

Polling published yesterday suggested that 69 per cent of Labour members would prefer Andy Burnham as leader, despite the Greater Manchester Mayor no longer being an MP and therefore unable to immediately challenge Sir Keir

Polling published yesterday suggested that 69 per cent of Labour members would prefer Andy Burnham as leader, despite the Greater Manchester Mayor no longer being an MP and therefore unable to immediately challenge Sir Keir

Polling published yesterday suggested that 69 per cent of Labour members would prefer Andy Burnham as leader, despite the Greater Manchester Mayor no longer being an MP and therefore unable to immediately challenge Sir Keir

The research also suggested that 69 per cent of Labour members would prefer Andy Burnham as leader, despite the Greater Manchester Mayor no longer being an MP and therefore unable to immediately challenge Sir Keir. 

Though Mr Burnham is clear favourite, the Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Yvette Cooper is viewed as the leading MP candidate in the event of a sudden contest. 

Some 35 per cent of members would choose her, with shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy on 13 per cent and Ms Rayner on 12 per cent.

In an interview with the New Statesman, Mr Burnham said he would like to return to the House of Commons but not in the immediate future. 

‘I ain’t going back any time soon,’ he said. ‘I get asked it relentlessly: would I ever go back? So the answer is, I would, but it’s not any time soon. 

‘I’m supporting Keir – I want him to win the next general election, and I’ll do whatever I can to help him achieve that.’

Source: Daily Mail UK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

LIVE OFFLINE
Loading...