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Leadbeater calls for divisions to be healed after Labour narrowly hangs on to Batley

16th Jul 2021
Leadbeater calls for divisions to be healed after Labour narrowly hangs on to Batley

Kim Leadbeater, MP Batley and Spen. (Credit: Labour Party)

Hamed Chapman

Kim Leadbeater, 45, says she was “absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and chosen hope” after hanging onto the Labour seat previously held by her murdered sister Jo Cox.

In a short victory speech, Leadbeater paid tribute to her family and friends, saying that “without them, I could not have got through the last five years, never mind the last five weeks” of the bitter campaign election campaign.

She won by a majority reduced from 3,525 to just 323 over Conservative candidate Ryan Stephenson in what had been the latest “red wall” seat Labour had been expected to lose, especially if the party failed to hang onto the crucial Muslim vote in the constituency.

“Sadly, there has been some nastiness during this byelection, and there are some divisions that need to be healed, but I think that if anyone can achieve that, I can,” said the former physical health lecturer who was parachuted into contesting the seat.

Keir Starmer, who could have faced a challenge to his leadership if Labour had lost, described the narrow victory as a “fantastic result,” which he said was won “against the odds”.

“Kim has shown inspiring resilience in the face of hatred and intimidation. She was unafraid to call it out and ran a positive campaign of hope,” Starmer said in a short statement.

Third in the poll came former Labour and Respect Member of Parliament George Galloway with 8,264 votes, standing for his Workers Party. He said he was contesting the seat so that it would be “curtains” for Starmer if Labour lost.

Crucial in the by-election were Muslim voters, estimated to number 8,600, and many have traditionally supported Labour but have felt their votes were taken for granted.

During the hustings, a group of prominent Muslim organisations wrote an open letter to Starmer urgently asking for policy clarifications on such issues as Islamophobia, justice for the Palestinians as well as on Kashmir.

“After decades of supporting this party, knocking on doors, organising voter turnout drives and so much more, we are now in serious doubt over whether we can continue with our support,” the letter stated.

In response, the Labour Leader reaffirmed his commitment to fighting Islamophobia on all fronts, including within his party, while insisting Muslims would always have a political home in the Labour Party.

“Your steadfast and enduring support has been, and always will be, crucial to the Labour Party. And I am clear that we cannot take the support of any community for granted – every vote must always be earned.”

After the result, Labour Councillor, Shabir Pandor, Leader of the Kirklees Council, issued a statement thanking all who continued to support the party, which he said meant so much to him.

“We now need to begin the work of rebuilding our communities and making sure we get the investment we need in our community. Lessons have been learnt, and together with our new MP we will always put our residents first,” Pandor said.

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