Breaking… Labour narrowly hold Batley and Spen

Labour have narrowly retained Batley and Spen after two bundle checks. Keir Starmer has been spared the ignominy of losing a red wall seat at a time when there is talk in his party of a leadership challenge. The majority of 323 defied the doomsayers but a 7.4% reduction in the Labour vote will still lead to continued questioning of his leadership.

The Conservatives did not make ground and lost 1.6% of the vote. George Galloway came third, the Lib Dems fourth.

The turnout was 47.6%.

The seat had become vacant after Labour and Co-op MP Tracy Brabin stood down after being elected Mayor of West Yorkshire. Elected for Labour last night was Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox.

This was never a seat where the Lib Dems expected to do well. Despite a hard fought campaign by Tom Gordon and his team, the Lib Dem share of the vote fell from 4.6% to 3.3%.

The prospects of George Galloway, Worker Party of Britain, had been talked up overnight. He attracted over a fifth of the vote (21.9%) and came third.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Friday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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29 Comments

  • George Thomas 2nd Jul '21 - 6:30am

    Strong local candidates who can naturally attract support from other parties + local voters being fully aware of what is needed and who can actually win > formal progressive alliance? Is that the lesson we can take from last two bye-elections?

    It’s not great that 56.3% voted for a corrupt Tory campaign (we’ll give investment if you vote for us and ignore your area if you don’t) or George Galloway mind.

  • Intriguingly the Conservatives are down 1.3% on average in the opinion polls since the Chesham and Amersham by-election – “its the Lib Dems wot won it for Labour”.

    It will be a moving moment when Kim takes her seat in Parliament – near to the plaque commemorating her sister.

    I hope that @David Raw is very happy today 🙂 !!!!!!!

    So the Tories can’t win in the Red Wall and they can’t win in the Blue Wall…

    In other news a very good local council win in the Esher and Walton constituency. Lib Dems up 18%, Tories down 4% for a Lib Dem gain off the Tories on Elmbridge council.

    https://twitter.com/BritainElects/status/1410734008539836419

  • Peter Wrigley 2nd Jul '21 - 7:14am

    Most of the media comment I’ve heard so far concentrates on the narrowness of the Labour win i think more significant is the smallness of the Conservative share (34.4%) in an election they were widely predicted to win.
    I think it is a fair bet that much of George Galloway’s vote, lets say two thirds, would have gone to Labour had he not intervened. That would have had the Labour vote pushing 20 000 and a substantial majority.

    Our vote was derisory, though not as low as the Labour vote in Chesham Amersham (622 and 1.6%) . Clearly in both elections people have voted tactically to bring about the “progressive alliance” our leaders seem so reluctant to formalise.

  • @ Michael 1 Sometimes the really good people deserve to win…… and they do.

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Jul '21 - 7:50am

    George Thomas: Both these by-election results negate the need for a progressive alliance. In C&A, voters switched from Labour and Greens to us of their own volition. In B&S, those still voting for us are most likely either hard-core Lib Dems or soft Tories, the Labour-leaning potential Lib Dem voters having switched to Labour long ago.

  • Yeovil Yokel 2nd Jul '21 - 8:12am

    Thank goodness, what a relief.

    Andy Boddington – is Batley & Spen a ‘red wall’ seat? The Conservatives held it before 1997.

  • Hartlepool, a spectacular Tory gain …Chesham and Amersham, a spectacular Lib Dem gain…Batley and Spen, a spectacular no change!

  • Two by elections in two weeks and the media thwarted in both, oh yes as well as the PM. Happy days except for our performance, words shoulod fail us..
    We had a couple of good results though overnight in the locals, big % increase in Surrey and Lincolnshire, with a gain at the first. Other seats results akin to Batley.

  • Andrew Severn 2nd Jul '21 - 8:21am

    The BBC this morning reports Batley candidate Tom Gordon saying that it’s the first time he has seen a police officer at an election count . I chatted to one at the 2019 local election count in Lancaster – I am just sad that I did not make use of his presence by reporting that a Tory agent called me a ‘little sh*t’ when it was announced we had beaten him by 5 votes .

  • @David Raw

    🙂 🙂 !!!!!!!!!!!

    Just very occasionally…. And it’s nice when they do! And it was an emotional and heartfelt acceptance speech by Kim.

    And I hope she does indeed prove to be an excellent MP!

    I do have to say though that democracy is important – it should be free of intimidation but sometimes it’s ugly, may be even brutal, certainly it should be robust – and it may be the worst system… until you consider all the others but it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) give anyone a “free pass”!

    And it is about everyone (who want to) to put themselves forward and hopefully one day – in a hundred years or may be two hundred we can have a fairer system…!

    @Geoff Reid

    Lol!

  • As I said some weeks ago on LDV , in the words of the Proclaimers, I would walk 500 miles and more back to my native Spenborough for Kim and her family .

    And Peter Wrigley gets it right.

  • @Martin, Galloway appeals to the grievance vote, and always makes sure to create grievance wherever he goes.

    It’s unlikely he’ll stand in B&S at the next general election, but he’ll leave behind a lot of chaos, and some of the people he wound up during this campaign will stay angry, so Kim’s going to have her work cut out for her to heal those divisions.

    Thankfully Kim got the win, and whilst the Tories are banging on about how great it is for them that they came close, their vote share went down too, and they know this was a missed opportunity and it seems the national mood has shifted since Hartlepool. The narrative has definitely changed, thanks in part to Chesham and Amersham.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Jul '21 - 10:15am

    Maybe Galloway took the votes of former Labour voters who would have voted Tory. Boris might be getting worried now but many of us must be relieved.

  • Nigel Hunter 2nd Jul '21 - 10:40am

    So Hancock, Conservative sleaze,the state the country is in had nothing to do with it?
    Does hate ,both extreme left AND right not have anything to do with it?
    If voters are voting tactfully it implies any alliance should be in INDIVIDUAL constituencies,NOT across the board..
    One thing for certainty ANY tactic to get rid of the Conservative and their institutional reign.

  • Towards the end of the B&S campaign some Labour activists were certainly hoping that Galloway would garner some Tory votes and I suspect he did. If you want an arch-populist with a toxic ego, who can exploit the poor, he’s your man. He has left scars in every constituency where he has had some success. When he gets elected, as in Bradford West, it does not take long for many people who voted for him to say “Never again”. Trying to analyse his appeal in terms of Labour or the Conservatives does not get you very far – but nvelope2003 may well be on to something.

  • mark jacobs 2nd Jul '21 - 10:59am

    I don’t think it is good news, certainly not for those of us who live in safer Labour seats and would like an alternative. Councils, mainly labour, that take voters for granted and do the minimum when it comes to clearing up the environment and graffiti defaced buildings. I find it quite depressing that they held the seat and that the Lib Dem vote went down so nothing for me to smile about. Had it not been for the Matt Hancock debacle this would have been a tory gain.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Jul '21 - 12:52pm

    Very pleased that the easily best result, happened, electorally. No gloating by the absurd figure of Galloway!

    Kim Leadbeater, like her late and great sister, can represent her constituents regardless of party.

    This is a real mp!

  • Geoff Reid gets it right about Galloway and his “Workers Party”.

    Whatever else he may be, Galloway is certainly not a worker.

  • Boris is at it again…

    Johnson …We fought an incredibly positive campaign and did very well to reduce a long standing Labour majority, several decades old, to 323, with… the third biggest swing in favour of the government since the war”.

    What???? The Tory candidate polled around 7,000 fewer votes than the 2019 losing candidate..

  • John Marriott 2nd Jul '21 - 4:09pm

    Not wishing to rain on anyone’s parade; but how long had Ms Leadbeater been a member of the Labour Party before she was selected as its candidate? I gather that the party had to waive a rule to allow her to stand. This is worth remembering in the event of a similar thing happening to the Lib Dems.

    George Galloway, about whom I have commented on another thread, strikes me as a carpetbagger, whose real motives are frankly hard to fathom. I tend to agree that he was trying to exploit the Batley GS controversy. However, I should be careful about saying categorically that he was targeting the Muslim vote, as was alleged elsewhere. He just seems to have a chip on his shoulder about the Labour Party.

    The ‘derisory’ Lib Dem vote (Peter Wrigley) means that, if an understanding with Labour is ever attempted, they can’t point to B&S and claim that it was a vote for the Lib Dems that cost them the seat.

  • @John Marriott “Not wishing to rain on anyone’s parade; but how long had Ms Leadbeater been a member of the Labour Party before she was selected as its candidate?” – from a bit of Googling, it seems the story is that she was a Labour member in the past, resigned after the death of Jo Cox so that she could help manage the memorial fund without it being tainted with any political bias, and then rejoined very recently (in order to stand as the candidate?). So yes, Labour would have needed to waive their rule requiring any candidate to have been a party member for a year, but there doesn’t seem to be anything dodgy about it.

  • John Marriott 2nd Jul '21 - 8:12pm

    @Simon R
    Nothing ‘dodgy’ implied. My point was that the decision to go with a candidate like Ms Leadbeater could be useful ammo if Labour ever were to query a similar decision from the Lib Dems. Rules are clearly there to be ‘waived’ when an opportunity to make some mileage arises. I suppose that the phrase ‘bending over backwards’ might be a substitute to describe what occurred. Well, it appeared to work, didn’t it? Any other candidate was unlikely to do as well as the sister of the late Jo Cox.

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Jul '21 - 10:49pm

    “If voters are voting tactfully

    Well we know what the writer meant, but taken literally it raises a serious point about how usually loyal Labour voters might act in a Con~LibDem battleground seat. If there’s a Labour candidate standing, then they can publicly proclaim to be supporting their party candidate, then in the privacy of the voting booth vote Lib Dem because they know that in reaity the Labour candidate has no chance and it’s better to at least get/keep the Tory out. Thus they vote both tactfully and tactically. If there is no candidate, they might think it seems odd for them to be even going to the polling station and would therefore abstain and indirectly help the Tory.

    Another reason to have separate candidates in all elections.

  • Robin Grayson 3rd Jul '21 - 9:54am

    Congratulations to Tom Gordon and his team for their hard fought tactical campaign in the face of overwhelming forces. I came to Batley three times from Manchester Victoria to lend a hand in the defence of the traditional Lib Dem strongholds. In the last few days I witnessed swarms of Labour activists and MPs overwhelming the pubs and cafes.

    A couple of points to ponder, missed by opinion leaders in this column. I had expected there would be a candidate from the Green Party but none. In the never-never land, would Labour have still won if the Greens had stood?

    Secondly, naught to do with Galloway, also standing were a clutch of white supremist parties. The Lib Dem Team tracked down a horrible hate leaflet from one of these parties, and prompt action led swiftly to a police investigation of where it was distributed and exactly who by. I understand this is an ongoing investigation so no comments please.

  • John Marriott 4th Jul '21 - 1:03pm

    @Robin Grayson
    Your analysis of what happened in B&S mirrors in many ways what happened in C&A. In the latter constituency rather than the “swarms of Labour activists and MPs” we clearly had “swarms” of Lib Dems. Horses for courses and possibly a lesson for the future?

    Your point about the Green Party is very apposite. What if, indeed. Regarding Galloway and the far right, it would appear that the campaigning in B&S was less civilised than in C&A. All in all, a better few weeks for the opposition parties, well, at least two of them. Onwards and upwards, like the England soccer team!

  • Rather than finding satisfaction from a “hard fought tactical campaign in the face of overwhelming forces”, Lib Dems should focus on why nearly 9,000 (17.2%) Lib Dem votes in Batley & Spen in 2010 became 1,200 votes (3.3%) last Thursday – with yet another lost deposit after Hartlepool (1.2%) and Airdie & Shotts (1%). Why and where did the missing 7,800 votes go ?
    Unless these questions can be satisfactorily resolved with a bit of internal rigorous honesty, then the Lib Dems may need to change their name to the ‘Focussed on the Home Counties Party’.
    History buffs may be interested in the 1922 General Election in Spen Valley. Sir John Simon (Liberal) polled 13,306 (39.2%), Tom Myers (Labour) 12,519 (36.9%) and William Holton (Conservative) 8,104 (23.9%).

    My Granddad, Great Uncle George and Auntie Liza once told me they had voted for Sir John Simon because his Agent (one Victor Midgley) lived next door to them in Birkenshaw. They were all Methodists. They stopped voting for Simon when he joined with the Tories ten years later. A lesson for today ?

  • Alex Macfie 8th Jul '21 - 9:46am

    David Raw: Please, make up your mind. One moment you’re implying we should be standing aside and campaigning for the Labour candidate, the next you complain about our deposit-losing vote share. Of course we could have run a campaign that got us closer to our 2010 share, but such a campaign would have run the risk of taking votes from Labour to let the Tory (or worse, “Gorgeous” George Galloway) in through the middle.
    The old West Yorkshire Methodist Liberal vote does seem to have gone over to Labour. I would not expect it to come back until the Tory vote there is pushed down such that there is no danger of the Tories winning again. As for the “Home Counties” jibe, well the original Liberal revival could be said to have started there, with the 1962 Orpington by-election (although the gains in the 2 subsequent General Elections were all in the Celtic fringe plus Richard Wainwright’s win in Colne Valley). Most of our current target seats are Tory facing, and a lot of them are in the Home Counties. Revival has to start somewhere, and in our FPTP system that means building on geographic areas where we are currently strong. We can later work on currently weaker areas. This can be done — the seats we won from Labour or came close to winning in the 2000s were mostly Lab~Con battlegrounds in 1992.

  • @ Alex Macfie As a native of Spen Valley it’s always interesting to get the take on things from a visitor from Richmond (Surrey), but as such a native I have to confess it’s not often I get accused of not making up my mind.

    A small word of advice and caution to the confident Mr Macfie when he attempts to put me right . Richard Wainwright was a personal friend who I worked closely with throughout the 1960’s. I happen to know (and share) a fair bit about his radical Methodist Liberalism – though sadly it’s something that went out of fashion in this party back in 2007.

    As for the Leadbeater family I made my mind up long ago about someone I know, value and respect …… and who planted a tree in memory of my late parents in the Jo Cox Memorial Wood in Liversedge. I’m looking forward to congratulating her when, and if, I can next get to a match at HTAFC. Putting all ‘sophisticated’ psephology on one side, it was Kim Wot Won it.

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