Batley & Spen – Labour win is shock but Lib Dems kept Tories out

First – huge congratulations to Kim Leadbeater. Brand new to politics, she was absolutely thrown to the wolves in this campaign, but she survived it. The fight between Labour and Galloway was bitter and divisive, the last thing this community needed. I hope that Kim will be a compassionate and healing MP and I wish her luck.

Honestly, as someone who has been campaigning and knocking on doors in this election, the result has come as a huge shock. I thought the Conservatives would walk it. Perhaps that tells you something about the areas we targeted – our locally held ward of Cleckheaton and our adjacent target of Birstall and Birkenshaw are very much Tory leaning. Our campaign focussed on keeping that local election vote with us, rather than letting it slide back to the Tories.

We weren’t entirely successful – another lost deposit, alas, and some lost vote share (though in an election where everyone lost vote share except George Galloway that shouldn’t be too troubling) – but we resisted that squeeze amazingly well, holding on to 1254 votes. We offered a clear calm alternative for those who didn’t wish to add another MP to Johnson’s total, but who were utterly fed up with years of being ignored by both their Labour MP and Labour run Kirklees Council.

And here I have a very clear message for uninformed supporters of the so called “progressive alliance.” If we hadn’t stood a candidate, as you have repeatedly demanded on Twitter, our votes would likely have piled onto the Tory total, stayed at home, or scattered to the many protest votes on the ballot paper.

Put simply, if we hadn’t stood, or if we had stood but run no campaign, the Conservatives would have won.

I know it seems baffling to many Southern Lib Dems that our vote does not simply and obediently switch to Labour as a 2nd choice, but for those of us who fight Labour, day in, day out in the North of England the reasons couldn’t be clearer.

Northern Labour simply aren’t progressive. At all. If you don’t agree then simply take a look at the photo above showing the Labour leaflet that did as much to enflame racial tensions as anything produced by Galloway and his grim, divisive campaign.

Perhaps people who have never knocked on a door north of Oxfordshire should refrain from commenting on Northern campaigns.

Am I pleased with the result? Not particularly. I always like to see Labour lose. But of course, I wouldn’t have liked to see the Tories win either. So, who did I want to win? Our brilliant Lib Dem candidate Tom Gordon, of course, even though that was never going to happen.

That’s why I’m a Liberal Democrat.

* Hannah is Lib Dem Council group leader in Barnsley

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Andrew Smith 2nd Jul '21 - 9:31am

    Seen a comment on Twitter expressing disappointment that c1250 people voted Lib Dem and thus risking a Tory win.
    This attitude profoundly misunderstands how votes move around. Previously LD supporters may well have voted Labour but the existence of a LD candidate may have drawn votes from the Tories or disillusioned Tories that might have otherwise abstained.
    The electors in Batley and Chesham worked out how to beat the Tories. Had there been a formal pact the results could have been very different.
    Some people who support a progressive alliance are very naive.

  • Michael Wilson 2nd Jul '21 - 9:33am

    Thank you to all those who helped and to Tom Gordon who flew the Liberal flag. And this article is absolutely on the money when it comes to ‘progressive politics’ (I’m a Northerner living in Twickenham now). #IAgreeWithHannah

  • I would like to see clearer evidence to support your assertion that the Lib Dem’s helped Labour win.

    Politics is going through a realignment so that neighbourhood and social class are no longer accurate predictors of voting preference.

    Furthermore, if we are honest not all Lib Dem voters are “progressive” and local LD campaigns often appeal to small c conservative attitudes.

    Finally can I reiterate that a progressive alliance does not have to mean not standing a candidate, it can mean not doing any campaigning at all but still being on the ballot paper.

  • Michael Bukola 2nd Jul '21 - 9:43am

    Credit to you Hannah and other activists for fighting the good fight and helping us to remain relevant there. Just a real pity that we lack the self-confidence to engage voters from diverse backgrounds in places like Batley. I bet out vote was holding up perfectly well during the aftermath of the Iraq war….we not now when it is clear the Labour vote is softening?

  • Simon Foster 2nd Jul '21 - 9:53am

    Massive thanks to Tom Gordon who has completed a triathlon of campaigns, working on three recently including standing in Batley and Spen. Pint at the conference bar awaits you when I next see you Tom. I suspect I won’t be the only one.

  • John Russell 2nd Jul '21 - 10:19am

    I am sorry but I am really struggling with this spin message from the party this morning. I am not here to attack anyone but did feel a need to state how I feel about it.

    I understand that for various practical reasons the party decided to stand knowing there was a risk involved. I don’t want to challenge that decision. Luckily we got away with it this time.

    “Put simply, if we hadn’t stood, or if we had stood but run no campaign, the Conservatives would have won.”

    Considering just how complex this election was on so many fronts I find it impossible to support this statement. If some one wants to point me to a political commentator outside of the party who thinks the same please do so. My beliefs may be wrong.

    Some soft Conservatives may have voted Lib Dem. I don’t doubt this happened. Lots of voters changed party in this election. Was it really these voters above all others that won the election? Did the Lib Dems really alone win this election for Labour? Does anyone outside the party believe this? Would not at least some soft Conservatives not have just stayed at home if the party had not stood a candidate?

    I understood the decision to stand – but to argue that our standing alone won the election for Labour is just without evidence or justification. It may provide a convenient story for standing but.. does it stand up to evidence?

    I find it depressing that our leadership do not support a Progressive Alliance or some form of lose cooperation and that Labour do not support PR.

    If anything this election shows just how complex and unpredictable elections really are, particularly with rouge candidates standing and why during the complexities of a General Election in particularly we need some form of cross party cooperation to defeat the Conservatives.

    If the shoe was on the other foot and Labour had put this message out when we had only just scraped a win I am sure we would have challenged it.

  • >>For northern campaigns also read South Wales campaigns.
    Or indeed any of those who’ve contested elections with corrupt, aggressive, authoritarian Labour in London too. Not just a northern thing …

    But more generally, Hannah’s point is extremely well made. The fact that in this by-election we went out of our way to campaign only in the more Tory-leaning areas makes her point particularly clear.

    I don’t think anyone’s saying that the Lib Dem campaign alone ‘won it for Labour’ but, with a majority of only c300, there’s a strong chance that absent a Lib Dem campaign, our votes would have broken more heavily for the Tories than for Labour, given the parts of the constituency they mostly came from.

    Overall, the fact Labour came so close to losing was down very much to Galloway’s intervention – hard to see any of his voters otherwise voting Tory.

    The Tories seriously underperformed if you take into account the Galloway vote leaking away from Labour, and the fact that the populist-leaning independent from 2019 wasn’t standing this time (likely most of his votes went Tory in the by-election).

  • Paul Barker 2nd Jul '21 - 10:48am

    The point is that Our Campaign was largely confined to 3 Target Wards where the fight was between us & The Tories, so yes, a lot of the Voters who went Libdem would probably have Voted Conservative in our absence.
    Of course no-one outside The Libdems will say this, most other commentators try to pretend we dont exist or, failing that, that We are Labour/Tories in disguise. That isnt new or likely to change.

    The Big story of this campaign is that pretty much the entire Muslim Vote went to an explicitly Faschist “Party”. The “Workers Party” campaign focused on Anti-semitism & Homophobia, the latter very much focused on The Labour Candidate.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jul '21 - 10:52am

    Having called the result of this one wrongly I’m going to give up predicting any more! If I predict that Ukraine will beat England tomorrow, hopefully that will be wrong too!

    So congratulations to Kim Leadbetter. Like Sarah Green last week she does seem to have discovered another apolitical way to win elections. She joined the Labour Party at the same time as she decided to stand for Parliament and was decidedly hazy when asked what the Labour Party stood for under Keir Starmer. She didn’t seem to know any more than anyone else but did promise to clarify her thoughts once elected!

    However, she apparently has been listening to Theresa May who once informed us that there was no Magic Money Tree. She gives this as the reason why we can’t afford more than 1% for our nurses. I’m not sure where she thinks Rishi Sunak has found the billions, much of which has ended up with Tory supporting big business, recently.

    Oh well. Things can only get better! Can’t they?

  • Not sure the people who voted for Galloway would have voted Labour if he hadn’t stood. In the north there seems to be a feeling of anyone but Labour amongst voters at the moment.

  • John Barrett 2nd Jul '21 - 10:57am

    With an electorate of 79,373 and the new MP receiving 13,296 votes, it is hard to describe her as a “winner” when approximately 66,000 voters out of 79,000 did not vote for her.

    If ever there was case for electoral reform, this is it.

    It is also hard for any party to claim anything more than wishful thinking, as this article does, without much more information from those who voted and the many more who decided not to bother.

  • David Evans 2nd Jul '21 - 11:09am

    Marco, You are right when you say “if we are honest not all Lib Dem voters are progressive”. But we need to remember that a lot of so called “progressives” are nothing at all like Liberal Democrats.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jul '21 - 11:10am

    So you’re saying its isn’t progressive to point out that there is a Islamophobia problem in the Tory party but it is progressive to quote a Newspaper as saying themselves, what they’d quoted a Lib Dem politician as saying in the first place?

    And a definition of Progressive also includes asking people how they would vote if Labour weren’t standing in an election and then presenting the results as if they were?

  • Alison Bennett 2nd Jul '21 - 12:10pm

    We are meant to be the party of localism. For me
    (as a Con facing southerner) that extends to trusting the local lib dem team to know what the right campaign to run is, and then sending them a few quid so that hopefully this by-election doesn’t leave them totally impoverished before the next set of locals. Well done Tom and thank you.

  • William Hobhouse 2nd Jul '21 - 12:25pm

    The proposition of this article is that most of the 1,254 people who voted LD in the by-election would have voted Conservative if there had been no LD candidate standing (the Progressive Alliance proposal).
    The data from the May 2021 Mayoral Elections (where voters could transfer their votes as second preferences) shows or suggests that about 1/3 of LD voters prefer a Conservative winner, and about 2/3 of LD voters prefer a Labour winner. The link to the West Yorkshire Mayoral is and the detail for Kirklees is also available.
    If the Batley and Spen result followed the national trend for LD voter preferences between Labour and Conservative, the conclusion is that there would have been a slightly bigger Labour win if the LDs hadn’t stood.

  • I thought the subtle nod from Ed Davey in the campaign was spot on: “Voters are far smarter than people give them credit for. Liberal Democrat voters may well notice that this is a Labour-held seat with the Tories in a close second, and they’ll draw their own conclusions.”

    Credit where credit is due – Ed knows how to win, and that means knowing where we can win, and where the progressive side winning means we have to do things differently – where we need to play smart, hold our noses, and work with others.

  • @John, it is fair to say that standing in this sort of constituency came with a theoretical risk we’d have taken more votes from Labour (or prevented them going there) than we did with the Tories, even in a case like this where campaigning is carefully targeted.

    However, it’s also fair to say that any decision not to stand is also brings risk. It assumes that most natural LibDem voters who like Labour more than the Tories aren’t smart enough to vote tactically for Labour. It’s not unreasonable to presume that most natural LibDems who prefer Labour have been voting Labour in that constituency for years, so bulk of the electorate at play are LibDems who hate Labour as much as the Tories, or who lean towards the Tories.

    Added to that, you’ve got the natural Tories who are fed up with Matt Hancock or Boris or Brexit who would never vote Labour, but hate the thought of staying at home, and hate the idea of an alliance ganging up on traditional conservatives even more.

    It may be a bit presumptuous to claim that “we won it for Labour”, and I definitely agree that standing comes with risk – even with targeted campaigning, but as much as I like the idea of a “Progressive Alliance” being an easy way of beating the Tories, we should be realistic enough to realise that it’s dangerous to take an overly simplistic approach and that formal alliances and not standing bring their own risks.

    I genuinely think that some aspect of a “Progressive Alliance” could work in a number of seats and could help to tip the balance to allow an ‘anti-Tory majority’ which might help bring in PR. But I fear that getting too greedy with how many seats should be subject to an alliance could do damage to its own cause.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jul '21 - 1:12pm

    There seems to be some disagreement amongst Lib Dems on whether standing is advantageous or disadvantages to Labour’s chances. The disagreement centres on whether Lib Dem voters have an overall preference for Labour. Personally I would expect that a second preference would average out to be about a third each for Tory, Labour and Abstain. So Lib Dems standing or otherwise would make little difference.

    Another factor to be considered is the effect on the Lib Dem vote on being in open alliance with the Labour Party. It wouldn’t put off Labour inclined voters but it would deter Tory inclined voters so would be detrimental to both Labour and Lib Dems alike.

    The case for the so-called Progressive Alliance is weak. The Lib Dems have little or nothing to offer the Labour Party by way of any pact. On a wider issue it is better that the electorate has the choice between viable parties on the left , centre and right of the political spectrum.

  • ……………..Put simply, if we hadn’t stood, or if we had stood but run no campaign, the Conservatives would have won……………

    Dear, oh, dear! To paraphrase Starmer’s jibe at PMQ’s, “Next, some in this party will be telling us they scored the winning goal against Germany!”

  • John Marriott 2nd Jul '21 - 2:14pm

    For me what really stuck out was the sight of a trilby hatted George Galloway on his campaign bus. Just what makes that man tick? I loved it when he took that US Congressional Committee to pieces a few years ago. I’m afraid that he has, for me, been irrevocably tarnished by appearing while still an MP on “Celebrity Big Brother’ and that cringeworthy session with Rula Lenska. Be that as it may, he still got a shedload of votes yesterday. Just what is happening out there? At least the right wing candidates also lost their deposits!

  • nvelope2003 2nd Jul '21 - 2:23pm

    Could it be more likely that the sort of Labour voters who have been voting Tory lately voted for Galloway and lost the Tories the seat?

  • >>Could it be more likely that the sort of Labour voters who have been voting Tory lately voted for Galloway and lost the Tories the seat?
    Unlikely. It seems that almost all Galloway’s vote came from the Muslim community rather than the traditional white working class vote where the Tories have made inroads recently

  • Matt (Bristol) 2nd Jul '21 - 2:56pm

    Although I take William Hobhouse’s point, how does he respond to the suggestion that the bias in the normal Liib Demvote in that constituency towards Labour as second choice was countered by a) people voting tactically for Labour anyway and b) Lib Dems only targeting the most Tory-leaning parts of their vote?

    Local pacts seem appropriate as needed, but Peter Martin’s point that too many of these allow Tories to make a false narrative about the parties being ‘the same thing’ is a healthy corrective.

    The experience in Bristol West, afaik, of the Brexit pact with the Greens against Labour was that it damaged the party locally and empowered the Greens as local champions, over Labour and the Lib Dems (which may have been a factor in subsequent council elections) without helping the Greens take the parliamentary seat from Labour.

    I would dearly like to see backroom policy coordination with Labour but can’t see Labour’s civil war making this easy

  • George Galloway was here to take advantage of the Batley Grammar school controversy. With a longstanding record of lobbying for Palestinian rights he was able to corral a large proportion of the Muslim vote. His stated aim, according to Jonathan Friedland at the Guardian was to drain away enough Labour votes to push the party into third place and drive Starmer out. In that he has failed and the best candidate for the area has won through on a wafer thin margin with the likely aid of LibDem and Green activists on social media urging a tactical vote.
    As Friedland concludes “Starmer is up against a government granted rare licence by the electorate, while Labour is barely granted a hearing. He has won himself no more than a brief breathing space. He must use it.”

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jul '21 - 3:37pm

    @ nvelope,

    “Could it be more likely that the sort of Labour voters who have been voting Tory lately voted for Galloway and lost the Tories the seat?”


    Normally Labour voters don’t like voting Tory even when they are expressing dissatisfaction with the party stance. There is a sense of tribal identity. Therefore, on Brexit, they were generally happier to support the Brexit party than vote Tory. But if they think that Brexit is still the main issue they will vote Tory in certain circumstances. Voting for George Galloway allows them to avoid doing that.

    @ Dominic,

    “Unlikely. It seems that almost all Galloway’s vote (8000+) came from the Muslim community”

    Do you have any evidence for this assertion? It would have only taken three hundred or so voters (of whatever ethnicity) to switch from the Tories to the WP for nvelope’s point to be valid.

  • Kath Pinnock 2nd Jul '21 - 3:41pm

    A further point not raised so far: any election campaign lays the foundations for the next set of elections. Here in Batley and Spen, we also had our eye on next May’s elections. Failing to campaign effectively would make it that much harder next year, and it’s hard enough as it is!

  • Peter – evidence comes from Labour polling day data (see for example Nick Palmer’s article on Makes sense, as 100% of Galloway’s pitch was on issues such as Israel/Palestine

  • William Hobhouse 2nd Jul '21 - 4:10pm

    It’s a statement of fact based on evidence that nationally in May 2021 about 2/3 of LD voters (who gave a usable second preference) transferred to Labour and 1/3 to the Conservatives.
    The argument put by the author Hannah Kitchen and added to in some comments incl Matt (Bristol) is that in this specific case, we targeted Tories, so these Tories voted Lib Dem and not Tory. And if by accident we spread our message to voters who would have otherwise voted for Kim Leadbeater, then the numbers affected still didn’t alter that we ‘increased’ Kim Leadbeater’s majority.
    Surely a more honest argument is that we position ourselves neither favouring the Conservatives nor Labour. We would consider an Alliance with either party, but more likely with neither.

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Jul '21 - 4:41pm

    William Hobhouse: This by-election didn’t provide for second preference, and that is likely to have affected voter behaviour. In the SV elections for PCC and Mayor in May, voters could use their 1st preference as a ‘sincere’ vote for the candidate they most wanted to win, without having to worry about whether that candidate was electable. Tactical considerations thus only came into play in the 2nd preference. Under FPTP there is no option for a ‘sincere’ 1st preference and tactical 2nd preference: so voters have to choose carefully how they would use their only vote. Thus, many voters who might have voted Lib Dem 1st and Labour 2nd under SV will have decided under FPTP to tactically vote for their 2nd preference.
    Lib Dem voters whose 2nd preference was the Tories were probably less inclined to vote tactically — mainly they are people who don’t particularly like this Tory government and want to send it a message, but can’t bring themselves to vote Labour.

  • Can someone explain what is objectionable about the Labour leaflet that is shown in the article?

  • There is a reservoir of experience in tough northern Labour-facing seats within ALDC but sometimes I wonder what some Liberal Democrat bodies at a national level expect of us. Hannah Kitching and today’s Barnsley team are offering us some hope after decades of struggling and getting nowhere. In terms of parliamentary seats my record vote of 19.2% in Barnsley Central has stood for 38 years – which is very sad. Thus I am much cheered by the desert which Barnsley Metropolitan District has been for so long is finally being irrigated. Take heed of what Hannah says at the beginning of this thread.

  • @Simon R – the photo shows Boris Johnson shaking hands with Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. That is dog whistle politics in Muslim areas.

  • All known evidence is that currently, 2/3rds of our voters would vote Labour if we weren’t there. That changes the numbers – significantly. Its a seat by seat case. Each one being its own ‘mini presidential election’ its said we must stand everywhere, the fact is we frequently don’t in locals. Because there is no point. Each case is different. I ran seats in May, and lost control of a successful coalition council by one seat. We were 150 short, and Labour polled 200. There are countless cases like this. In the East, there are a myriad of Parliamentary seats Labour have never, and can never win. How many losses similar to this will happen before we realise the extremely simple case that the ONLY way to enact PR is to bring Labour onside, for *one* electoral event, and have enough MPs to make sure we can get FPTP gone forever. Any other situation is fallasitic, and derived from fervour and unicorns. We have 12 MPs only. We poll *just* as the 3rd party, and this incredibly tribal refusal to work with the lesser evil of the two main parties, will facilitate an endless cycle of Tory majorities, and furthering kleptocracy. Some colleagues might want to rethink the strategy for their communities. In just a few short months, with PR, we could see increased representation across the board by Lib Dems. Labour will pay the PR price if it becomes binary, and its that, or they don’t reach power. The only way to achieve that is a selective, realistic #ProgressiveAlliance.

  • Geoff English 2nd Jul '21 - 6:13pm

    I have seen an awful lot of Lib Dem parliamentary by elections, some up close and some like this one from afar. I thought Tom’s campaign in B&S was spot on for the circumstances of this election. This was as different as it could be from C& A, but in some ways in terms of fashioning horses for courses it was again very well thought through. We needed to do three things, to give somewhere to go for the votes which would only have voted Lib Dem whatever, to provide an alternative for disgruntled and reluctant Tories, and to maintain a marker for the patch which has remained loyal to us at local government level, and it seems to me it achieved those limited objectives very effectively. In the past we have sometimes disintegrated in a by-election that wasn’t a target to win, not here. I have to say had I been living in this constituency I might well have voted Labour to keep the Tory out, and it seems to me there was a clear permission right from the top to take that line if it was appropriate for you.
    Yes, it would have been nice to have held the deposit, but I would have been pretty unhappy to have held our deposit and gifted the seat to the Tories. Yes there does need to be a progressive alliance of sorts, but it needs to be a bit more thought than simply standing aside or just having paper candidates.I think this one was really well balanced.

  • From a Lab facing southern seat, we saw exactly this voting pattern in the last GE. A lot of our members and voters were telling us they planned to vote Lab, but our vote share went up (and Lab won). So we assume that meant our aim to target disaffected tories was successful.

    One thing I do wish is that we could avoid the inevitable online aggression about “how DARE you stand a candidate?” in every single election. It’s just unnecessary.

  • Peter Watson 2nd Jul '21 - 6:18pm

    @Jon S “this incredibly tribal refusal to work with the lesser evil of the two main parties”
    I am not convinced that there is any consensus within the party about which is the “lesser evil”.
    Certainly, in recent years (crikey, it makes me feel old to realise that “recent years” is now well over a decade!) the party has appeared to present itself as an alternative to the Conservatives and an opposition to Labour.

  • @ William Hobhouse, Jon S

    In fairness, opponents of a PA have consistently said in these discussions that where there is a residual Lib Dem vote of only a few percent, how those voters think in terms of 2nd preferences may well be different from how Lib Dem voters at large think.

    That said, there is a lack of data to support the above and it is also a huge leap from saying that to saying “it was us that won it for Labour in Batley and Spen”.

  • As chair of Batley & Spen it was fantastic to work with Hannah and Tom along with all the other activists who managed to make it all the way from London and Newcastle and South Wales, to knock on doors and deliver leaflets and provide encouragement to a local team who’ve seen 5 Parliamentary elections in 6 years.

    I think Hannah is spot on about the problems of pushing for a “progressive alliance”, and this by-election provides good examples of some of those problems.

    Imagine for a minute that the Conservatives had managed to drum up another 500 votes yesterday, scraping over the line. There would have plenty of voices inside and outside the party blaming us for Labour’s defeat, but if Labour weren’t able to persuade “their” voters to turn out for them, how is that our responsibility? Why is up to “our” voters to pull Labour out of hole they dug for themselves?
    Also those voices from outside party that would blame us don’t have the interests of the Liberal Democrats at heart. It makes zero sense to align ourselves with people who’d prefer that the Liberal Democrats didn’t exist.

    Now over the course campaign it felt there was an unspoken “regressive alliance” between the Conservatives and George Galloway. The Tories had brief surge of activity at the start of the campaign before quietly slipping under the radar until the last couple of days. The Tory plan; don’t make any public mistakes by being invisible and let Galloway damage Labour enough to sneak a victory. And it almost worked.
    If the Tories had campaigned a little bit harder for a few more days it would have been a different result. The Tories were relying on a self-serving egomaniac to deliver for them and they paid the price for their inaction. If the Liberal Democrats start relying on self-serving egomaniacs from other parties, then we are just asking to be failed by them.

    Having a local understanding between ourselves and other parties not to rip chunks out of each other when there is common opponent is one thing (and has to take into account local factors that people from outside the area will be clueless about), but a grand formal “progressive alliance”? Well, that way madness and political irrelevance lie.

    Hannah’s article is also right about something else, Tom Gordon was an absolutely brilliant candidate, when you get passers-by asking “Is that Tom?” you know he’s been doing something right.

  • “the photo shows Boris Johnson shaking hands with Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India”

    Modi is a populist right wing leader and has been described as India’s Donald Trump. Is the photo any worse than a photo showing Johnson shaking hands with Trump?

  • JonS- how exactly do you propose to ‘bring Labour onside’? (reminds me of the mice thinking it would be good to bell the cat!). And who says they’d ditch FPTP if they then won a GE?
    From what I’ve read in comments elsewhere, a sizeable chunk of Labour supporters are disappointed Kim Leadbeater won, because they’d rather have lost the seat and got shot of Starmer as a result. If we were naive enough to agree to a ‘PA’ now, we’d tie ourselves to a Labour Party which could look very different by the time of the next GE.

  • James Fowler 2nd Jul '21 - 9:48pm

    I’m glad that Labour won B&S, just, and I’m impressed that we got ca.1250 votes. I buy, broadly, that we played a (small) part in the Labour victory here given where we campaigned, our likely voter demographic, and the margin of Labour’s victory. Big picture though is that I just don’t think we had a dog in this fight.

  • Bruce Milton 2nd Jul '21 - 10:26pm

    It’s been a remarkable couple of by-elections and of course without detailed analysis who can really tell what has actually happened.
    What I hope has happened is that the Tory vote actually collapsed against predictions.

    Is it at all feasible that the LibDem vote possibly did support keeping Labour in but that also a soft Tory vote went to other parties including LibDem because they were on the ballot paper.

    If a Progressive alliance is subtly indicating to the electorate where our party needs to put major resources into winning a seat vs a seat where a better placed party Non Tory could win, maintaining a candidate on the ballot paper I can support that if the parties could only be persuaded to support a Paddy style agreement.

    What ever happens let’s work together to Brick by brick break every Tory wall down

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Jul '21 - 10:40pm

    Marco: If it’s data you want, when why not ask the people running the B&S campaign for canvass data? I’m sure they knew what they were doing

  • @Mary Reid: Slightly troubling for you to say; ” …Boris Johnson shaking hands with Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. That is dog whistle politics in Muslim areas”.

    That line to me trivialises what are surely, rather serious, valid concerns that any muslim person would have with Narendra Modi, and that any liberal non-muslims should share- his role in Ahmadabad pogrom mass- murders unleashed on muslims there 20 years ago: , and comments he’s frequently made against muslim people since.
    It’s as fair to claim it as a ‘dog whistle’ flier as much as our fliers in by-elections 15 years ago showing Blair being very chummy with GWBush- i.e. not -It’s a completely valid political criticism on who our government tries to be close to.
    A fairer charge might be of hypocrisy of the Labour leaflet to suggest Keir Starmer wouldn’t do the same- as many ‘western govts’ have done since the US govt dropped its ban on Modi entering the US as soon as Modi became India’s leader, given ‘realpolitik’ on countering China’s growing power.

    But it’s a valid political criticism that photo highlights that the Johnson government makes large overtures to the Indian government in the wake of Brexit by cultivating personal relationships, in particular with India’s BJP- a party with affiliations to quasi-fascist- sectarianism for sure, if the word ‘fascist’ is to be used.

  • Malc 2nd Jul ’21 – 10:53am…………Not sure the people who voted for Galloway would have voted Labour if he hadn’t stood. In the north there seems to be a feeling of anyone but Labour amongst voters at the moment………….

    Over 13,000 voters disagreed with you.. As for your first sentence; Galloway stood with an announced intention of splitting the Labour vote to bring about a Labour loss and the subsequent removal of Starmer as leader…
    This by-election has generated more wild theories on here than the ‘grassy knoll’; all this over a candidate who lost his deposit…No wonder they call July/August the ‘silly season’.

  • nvelope2003 3rd Jul '21 - 10:11am

    Dominic :I thought we had a secret ballot. Muslims have the same problems as others although they might have more interest in some aspects but that does not make them immune to the political situation here. Many people vote for candidates who emphasise certain aspects even though that is not their main concern. The vote was partly a protest and partly for the person of the candidate who won. I expect that the Liberal Democrat would have won if voters thought he had a chance. Traditional Muslims might have been put off voting Conservative by the Hancock affair and the character of the Prime Minister.

  • David Warren 3rd Jul '21 - 10:12am

    It was a good campaign and a pleasure to play a small part in it as a telephone canvasser.

    Generally where Labour hold power they are pretty horrible, it isn’t just in the north as I can testify having been active in Reading for a number of years. Talking to Liberals in London the position is similar there too.

    There are many lessons to learn from this byelection but the standout for me is that George Galloway highlighted issues that we normally focus on. Potholes being number one, that and things like the sale of the police station to developers provide opportunities for Lib Dem campaigns in the future.

  • Causation cannot be proved. So, Hannah’s claims that “If we hadn’t stood a candidate… our votes would likely have piled onto the Tory total, stayed at home, or scattered to the many protest votes on the ballot paper” and “if we hadn’t stood, or if we had stood but run no campaign, the Conservatives would have won” cannot be proved. Claims like that just damage our credibility. What can be proved or at least evidenced is what voters say about their own voting propensities, if they are honest. If we could find the 1,254 who voted for Tom, our candidate, and get an honest answer as to what they would have done if he hadn’t been on the ballot paper, Hannah might have a case. We do have evidence, as William Hobhouse, Jon S and others have said, that Lib Dem supporters if not given a Lib Dem candidate tend to split far more towards Labour than towards the Tories. We have strong evidence. To William Hobhouse’s example of the Yorkshire mayoral election we can add the Cambridgeshire one, where the Tory got 40.5% and Labour 32.8% with the Lib Dem getting 26.7% and being eliminated in the first round; in the second round a mighty 37,888 votes transferred to Labour and only 14,253 to the Tory, resulting in a Labour win. The detailed breakdowns from each local authority demonstrate this with more particularity. Most ballots with the Lib Dem in first place had Labour in second. Fact. In my region, the East of England, where weak Tory MPs survive only because of the vagaries of the dreadful First Past The Post vote counting system, we could beat some of them where Labour could not, if non-Tory voters would get behind our candidates. Other regional parties have a similar situation in some of their seats, I don’t doubt. I’m sure Keir Starmer’s strategists, and the Greens’, are well aware of that. The case for reaching reciprocal understandings is clear. As Jon S said, each constituency is a mini presidential election. We need strong challengers against weak incumbents. If, like me, you want to get rid of FPTP, get a fair voting system and end Tory rule, we need to get our act together, and if we do, those weak MPs could be defeated and a reforming government installed.

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Jul '21 - 11:36am

    @Jo Hayes
    “We do have evidence, as William Hobhouse, Jon S and others have said, that Lib Dem supporters if not given a Lib Dem candidate tend to split far more towards Labour than towards the Tories. We have strong evidence. To William Hobhouse’s example of the Yorkshire mayoral election we can add the Cambridgeshire one, where the Tory got 40.5% and Labour 32.8% with the Lib Dem getting 26.7% and being eliminated in the first round; in the second round a mighty 37,888 votes transferred to Labour and only 14,253 to the Tory, resulting in a Labour win.”
    Jo – are you trying to extrapolate from one voting system which provides voters with a 2nd chance to another which doesn’t?

    And are you trying to apply this on a nationwide basis?

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Jul '21 - 11:46am

    Yet again, someone comes in citing the PCC and Mayoral election SV transfers, as if the 1st preference Lib Dem votes all represent Lib Dem votes under FPTP. Could Jo, Jon and William please address my point that the different systems are likely to affect voter behaviour? Specifically SV affords the opportunity to cast both a sincere (1st pref) and a tactical (2nd pref) vote. Under FPTP one has to choose between a sincere and a tactical vote if one’s preferred candidate can’t win. It’s impossible to say with certainty how much of the Labour vote in B&S is a tactical vote by people who prefer the Lib Dems. What we can say is that the Lib Dem vote has been squeezed heavily there, most of it appearing to go to Labour. If it is a tactical Labour vote, then presumably they would have voted Lib Dem 1st and Labour 2nd if it had been under SV. But under FPTP this vote simply disappears from the Lib Dem column, and the question is what would happen to the Lib Dem vote that hasn’t been squeezed. I think that Hannah and others know what is happening on the ground from canvass data and from actually talking to voters. This information is much more useful than crude interpolation from elections over a wider area and under a different system.

    And you can look at it logically as well. Given the strong pressure for anti-Tory tactical voting, there must be some reason why the residual Lib Dem vote hasn’t gone over to Labour, and that reason is probably that the vote consists of people who wouldn’t ever consider Labour. There is much less pressure or incentive for Tory~Lib Dem waverers to vote tactically against Labour than there is for the tactical voting in the opposite direction. This means that they vote Lib Dem because they don’t like the Tories but would never consider Labour; however, in the absence of a Lib Dem on the ballot paper they’ll probably either vote Tory or abstain.

  • Charles Anglin 3rd Jul '21 - 11:47am

    This result is a little better for Labour than it looks – but its pretty terrible for the Tories!

    It’s absolutely true that this victory was a bare-minimum, skin of their teeth affair where the winner basically campaigned as a local independent rather than the Labour candidate & only took 35% of the vote

    But this has never been a safe Labour seat.

    In its 38 year history its had a Tory MP for 14 of them. Outside of the by-election to replace Joe Cox in 2015 when neither the Tories nor the LibDems stood the only time its been won with a majority over 15% was in 2017.

    Even this by-election result is more complex than it appears at first sight.

    In 2019 the combined centre-right vote – Tory, Independent & Brexit was over 50%. This time the Independent candidate decided not to stand, specifically in order NOT to split the right-wing vote, but the Tory vote actually fell by 1%. Also, weak though Labour’s support was you can’t ignore the fact that George Galloway actually did very well within the Asian community who are over a quarter of the electorate – winning over 21%.

    I’m fairly that Galloway’s backers weren’t by & large former Tory supporters – though of course there may have been some Asian Tories that shifted to him over Israel/Palestine.

    That likely means that moderate Tory voters in the small towns in the Spen Valley must have voted for the Labour candidate rather than the Conservative one. In a seat that had BNP councillors in the early 2000s that should send alarm bells ringing in Central Office.

    So while there’s little cause for Labour to celebrate – there’s also a message to Boris that the success of his populist tactics has limits! Not everywhere North of the Watford Gap with a Labour MP is like Hartlepool

  • Nigel Jones 3rd Jul '21 - 12:17pm

    Thanks Jo Hayes for pointing out the need for evidence that we helped Labour win by standing, though Hannah has shown good argument for that, because of the way we campaigned. I agree that across the country a majority of Lib-Dem voters would tend to vote Labour as the alternative (or Green), but that may not be the right conclusion from this particular election; constituencies and even wards, vary and this was a by-election not a general election. We can learn from each of the 2 recent by-elections, but must not jump to simple general conclusions.

  • David Evans 3rd Jul '21 - 1:40pm

    It is rather disappointing to see almost everyone here pointing to their preferred piece of logic and data analysis to support their preferred viewpoint regarding what our party should do. It is far too common for many of us to only look at the data we like because it reinforces our viewpoint based on our experience and then stop, rather than look wider to see if there are any limitations in our experience and weaknesses in our analysis. If we did that we and embraced the diversity that says “Although I am a Lib Dem, I do not know everything, and I would benefit and learn from looking at other people’s viewpoints and analysis because not everywhere is like where I am and not everyone has the same bias towards what I believe as I do.” Indeed if we all did that, and really did learn form other people’s experiences, we would be much better placed to face up to the problems we and our country and our party face.

    Quite simply, lots of the country is nothing like Batley, and definitely not Cambridgeshire or even lots of West Yorkshire for that matter. And to persuade ourselves that us, as outsiders, with our reliance on analysis of things in places far away, know much better than the local team, who have fought and held on in their part of the constituency for years, through what have been the most testing of times for our party, really does show a distinct lack of respect for those who have pounded those pavements for us.

    When it comes down to it I believe that any local team worth their salt knows their local patch much better than the rest of us, and any local team that includes Kath Pinnock is particularly blessed when it comes down to it.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Jul '21 - 2:14pm


    “Traditional Muslims might have been put off voting Conservative by the Hancock affair and the character of the Prime Minister.”

    Yet they were happy to vote for “Gorgeous” George Galloway?!?!?
    In any case it isn’t only tradtional moralists who are put off by such behaviour and characters.

  • @ Alex Macfie I think if you look at the facts, you’ll find that Gorgeous George has outperformed de Pfeffel Johnson when it comes to productivity and output in certain areas.

  • John Littler 3rd Jul '21 - 5:54pm

    Surely an intelligent progressive alliance would decide on the circumstances of each seat and either:

    a) campaign to win;

    b) run a paper candidate with resources diverted elsewhere;

    c) target soft Tories to reduce their vote

    Limited Progressive Alliances worked for both parties in ’97 and for the LibDems here in Oxfordshire CC. Also in Richmond, Brecon, Oxford West and for the Tories/Brexits in 2019.

    Unless the Tories ( 80 seat majority) are heaved out we will have more populism, incompetent governance, cuts in overseas aid, increasing nuclear missiles, record homelessness and child poverty, inflated house price bubbles, FPTP continuing and in increased numbers of elections, fiddled seat boundaries, a rising share of wealth for the super rich, shrinking industries, plus a hard brexit and a loss of rights and opportunities across Europe.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Jul '21 - 9:21pm

    David Raw: LOL not sure I want to keep score, and Donald Trump probably outperfoirms the both of them. had the Christian conservative vote sewn up; the envangelicals didn’t seem to have a problem with his behaviour or character. The religious conservatives in B&S, whether Muslim or Christian, seem to be much more hung up about Kim Leadbeater’s sexuality than any male politician’s womanising. Such is the way, male promiscuity getting a free pass from supposed moral guardians.

  • Peter Hirst 4th Jul '21 - 2:32pm

    Rather than us taking votes off the Conservatives we could still have prevented a Conservative win by our supporters voting tactically and in favour of the progressive alliance that Hannah seems to despise.

  • Alex Macfie 4th Jul '21 - 7:13pm

    Peter Hirst: Great in theory, and it’s possible that some of our usually loyal supporters (and maybe even members) did so in the privacy of the voting booth (and likewise Labour for us in C&A) but we have to leave it up to the voters. We cannot instruct our voters to vote for another party’s candidate; to do so would alienate a large chunk of them.

  • Steven Whaley 4th Jul '21 - 9:15pm

    It seems to me that there’s little point in trying to extrapolate anything from the Batley & Spen result. It’s a pretty unique seat due to its recent tragic history.

    As for electoral pacts – I don’t like the idea at all. It’s fine to point out to people where we can and can’t win but it’s not a good look for parties to assume that everyone wants to vote tactically. The 600 people who wanted to vote Labour in C&A had every right to do so – and likewise those who voted for us in B&S. Voters should choose the politicians they elect – it’s not for the politicians to choose the voters or treat them like possessions to be bartered with.

  • Barry Smith 5th Jul '21 - 9:55am

    I think most of us Southern LibDems – at least those of us in serious target seats – are quite well aware that the majority of our voters are Tory leaning. Indeed, the whole strategy of winning in the blue wall relies on it.

  • nvelope2003 6th Jul '21 - 11:59am

    Alex Macfie: I think more people are likely to be aware of the Hancock affair and the character of the Prime Minister than would know about George Galloway.
    I can understand Liberal Democrats being obsessed with the Progressive Alliance and the possible effect on the result of our candidate in Batley and Spen but I suspect that very few others are interested or even care. We are in danger of becoming obsessed with the minutiae of politics which will do us no good at all. The party’s experience of alliances or coalitions with other parties has been utterly disastrous but some members seem to be unaware of this. Most people do not want it and the Labour Party has maintained its position by absolutely banning such things at the National Level.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Jul '21 - 12:40pm

    nvelope2003: I disagree. The epithet “Gorgeous George” has been around since the early 1990s when he was in his first term as Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead. He (in)famously appeared on Celebrity Big Brother where he pretended to be a cat or something. As with Trump and Johnson, people are almost certainly aware of his history and character, and don’t care, because “charismatic” straight males still get that free pass in today’s society.
    My point stands: in general cultural conservatives are not bothered about serial sexual misconduct by straight males the way they are about non-threatening LGBTQ people.

  • nvelope2003 7th Jul '21 - 11:07am

    Alex Macfie: I suspect that not many voters expected Galloway even to become a Minister let alone Prime Minister. What I have observed is that, despite a barrage of information from various types of media, most people seem to know little or nothing about anything except the most well known figures such as the Prime Minister. They don’t seem to know much about the leader of the opposition and most seem never to have heard of the leader of the Liberal Democrats or the Greens but they do seem to know about Nigel Farage. I think the majority of people consider what people do in their private life is their own business unless it affects their ability to do their job although there does seem to be a small minority who hate gay people and enjoy attacking them where they can. Most people now support gay marriage for example. But I suspect that this tolerance of other people’s lifestyles does not go for traditional Muslims who have been brought up in a different background.

  • John Shoesmith 9th Jul '21 - 8:17am

    In Derbyshire voters use local elections to express their discontent for the government. I guess if we had a by-election they would do the same. A General Election is different. If they are to vote for us they want to know what will happen after an election. They remember 2010, when they felt betrayed. They can’t possibly know what the LibDems can deliver unless we come to an agreement with Labour BEFORE an election.
    There is so much to fight for. Johnson blames our neighbours for all that goes wrong. He stokes up nationalist feeling. Our young people are isolated and increasingly barred from decent careers. That’s illiberal!
    Our motor industry is in decline, and the government subsidised investment by Nissan still takes us nowhere near 2014 levels. Johnson spouts green words but builds roads. He rambles on about China but our imports from them, and the resulting cash flows into their coffers, have rocketed. He waves the Union Flag but his arrogance makes him a recruiting sergeant for the SNP.
    Wake up! This isn’t about selfish party politics – it’s about our young people and our country. We haven’t won a General Election for 100 years, and we won’t unless we open our minds, get creative, and ruthlessly pursue what our voters want – a decent country that we can once again be proud of.

  • Peter Martin 12th Jul '21 - 1:11pm

    The consensus of opinion before the B&S by election was that the intervention of George Galloway’s Workers’ party was likely to cost Labour its seat. This was Galloway’s stated motivation.

    But it didn’t work out this way. I was a s surprised as anyone. However, I think we all overlooked that many votes that do go to the Tories from ex Labour voters, in Red Wall seats, are intended to give the Labour Party a kicking over issues like Brexit. And even Palestine even though the Tories aren’t any different. This time there was another choice and more in tune with the sentiments of many ex Labour voters.

    So it looks like GG might have scored an own goal and a very expensive one too.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Mel Borthwaite
    Sad that local election campaigns are now fought on national issues rather than local issues. And we are just as guilty of this....
  • Katharine Pindar
    My only comment is, not entering into the intricacies of taper rates as discussed above, that receiving GBI is not likely to be considered a reason to stop wo...
  • Nigel Quinton
    I have long been a reader of Roy Lilley's excellent blog/enewsletter about health and care issues, but last week he wrote about OFSTED https://c...
  • theakes
    This could be a difficult election for the party, having to defend the heavy gains of 2019 and faced with improving Conservative support....
  • theakes
    Mel, Maybe but there should still be an Appropriate Adult present. After all it is the legislative law.That is the core issue and it appears to be being ignor...