Share

The sister of murdered MP Jo Cox tonight accused her political rivals of ‘intimidation and violence’ as counting gets underway in the crunch Batley and Spen by-election in what is widely regarded as a referendum on Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Former Coronation Street actress Kim Leadbeater, whose sister Miss Cox was murdered by a neo-Nazi terrorist during the 2016 referendum on EU membership, said there have been ‘some unacceptable lows’ during the six-week campaign for the West Yorkshire seat.

In a statement published on Twitter after the polls closed at 10pm, she called on the victor to ‘bring our community together and start working for local people’ after a vicious campaign by Labour canvassers and supporters of George Galloway’s Workers Party. 

She said: ‘There have been many highs of this election campaign but sadly there have also been some unacceptable lows. The acts of intimidation and violence by some who have come here with the sole aim of sowing division have been deeply upsetting to witness.

‘Whatever the result tonight, the first priorities of the new MP must be to bring our community together and start working for local people in every part of the constituency I am proud to call my home.’ 

Labour is braced for defeat as it seeks to defend a 3,525 majority in the Red Wall seat, 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. 

Sir Keir will be in trouble if his party loses the seat, just weeks after Labour’s by-electon defeat in Hartlepool and a series of local elections dubbed ‘Super Thursday’ in May. It would be the first time in postwar history a ruling party made two by-election gains in a single parliamentary term. 

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

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. 

Former Labour MP 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. In a polling day video, Mr Galloway said he had a ‘real chance to bring about the biggest shock in British political history’. As polls closed he added: ‘One thing is certain: it’s curtains for Keir.’

Sir Keir’s spokesman has insisted he will not resign if Labour lose at the by-election, 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.

A Labour source said: ‘We’ve got lots of activists out but nothing’s changed. Galloway’s nasty campaign has hit our vote while the Tories are picking up 2019 independent votes, and places that were starting to look more positive for us seem to have swung back. It’s going to be a long night.’

One Labour frontbench MP predicted a 6,000 vote majority for the Tories and described the campaign as an ‘utter shambles’ with ‘loads of switchers’ to Boris Johnson’s party. 

Deputy leader Angela Rayner was forced to deny reports in the Times newspaper that she had been canvassing support from MPs and trade unions amid rumours of a leadership challenge or a potential party coup by Left-wing allies of the Ashton under Lyne MP.   

Miss Rayner tweeted to say the story was ‘news to me’, while allies told the Guardian that she 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 hard-Left fear that senior Blairites have significant influence over the leader’s office and could purge the party of the Corbynites if Labour are defeat at Batley and Spen.  

Tensions have also 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 has been accused of stoking racial and sectarian tension after distributing a campaign leaflet which printed a photo of Mr Johnson shaking hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, in an area with a sizable Pakistani Muslim population. 

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

Ballot boxes arrive at Cathedral House in Huddersfield, ready for the votes to be counted in the Batley and Spen by-election at Norristhorpe United Reformed Church in Liversedge

Ballot boxes arrive at Cathedral House in Huddersfield, ready for the votes to be counted in the Batley and Spen by-election at Norristhorpe United Reformed Church in Liversedge

Ballot boxes arrive at Cathedral House in Huddersfield, ready for the votes to be counted in the Batley and Spen by-election at Norristhorpe United Reformed Church in Liversedge

Ballot boxes arrive at Cathedral House in Huddersfield, ready for the votes to be counted in the Batley and Spen by-election

Ballot boxes arrive at Cathedral House in Huddersfield, ready for the votes to be counted in the Batley and Spen by-election

Ballot boxes arrive at Cathedral House in Huddersfield, ready for the votes to be counted in the Batley and Spen by-election

Former Coronation Street actress Kim Leadbeater, whose sister Miss Cox was murdered by a neo-Nazi terrorist during the 2016 referendum on EU membership, said there have been 'some unacceptable lows' during the six-week campaign for the seat in the West Yorkshire constituency

Former Coronation Street actress Kim Leadbeater, whose sister Miss Cox was murdered by a neo-Nazi terrorist during the 2016 referendum on EU membership, said there have been 'some unacceptable lows' during the six-week campaign for the seat in the West Yorkshire constituency

Former Coronation Street actress Kim Leadbeater, whose sister Miss Cox was murdered by a neo-Nazi terrorist during the 2016 referendum on EU membership, said there have been ‘some unacceptable lows’ during the six-week campaign for the seat in the West Yorkshire constituency

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

Former MP and veteran campaigner George Galloway, who has been targeting Labour's traditional Asian and white working-class coalition in an explicit attempt to topple Sir Keir Starmer

Former MP and veteran campaigner George Galloway, who has been targeting Labour's traditional Asian and white working-class coalition in an explicit attempt to topple Sir Keir Starmer

Former MP and veteran campaigner George Galloway, who has been targeting Labour’s traditional Asian and white working-class coalition in an explicit attempt to topple Sir Keir Starmer

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

An arrow pointing to the photo said: ‘The risk of voting for anyone but Labour is clear.’ Mr Johnson has also faced allegations that he acted slowly on closing UK borders earlier this year despite concerns about the so-called Delta coronavirus variant because he wanted a trade deal with India.    

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.

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.  

It comes after a teacher at Batley Grammar School was suspended after Muslim parents complained that he had showed a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad to a blasphemy class. Though an independent inquiry ruled that he could rejoin the school, the teacher continues to live in hiding. 

Voters are concerned about rising crime, the closure of the Batley police station and the state of the economy after successive lockdowns. 

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.

Miss 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.

The former Coronation Street actress 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.  

In a message to voters after polls closed, Mr Stephenson said: ‘Whatever the result, you proved that more and more local people are ready for change.’ 

Another by-election gain from Labour will be a boon for Mr Johnson after a bruising defeat in Chesham and Amersham, a formerly safe Tory seat which the Liberal Democrats won by 8,000 votes in June. 

The Labour leader’s spokesman insisted 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. But 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’.  

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.

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.  

Labour Leader Keir Starmer and Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater during a visit to the Jo Cox Community Wood in Liversedge

Labour Leader Keir Starmer and Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater during a visit to the Jo Cox Community Wood in Liversedge

Labour Leader Keir Starmer and Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater during a visit to the Jo Cox Community Wood in Liversedge

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

A man leaves Batley Town Hall aftert casting his vote on July 1, 2021 in Batley

A man leaves Batley Town Hall aftert casting his vote on July 1, 2021 in Batley

A man leaves Batley Town Hall aftert casting his vote on July 1, 2021 in Batley

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

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

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’.  

Source: Daily Mail UK

Leave a Reply

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

LIVE OFFLINE
Loading...