Batley and Spen by-election: A morale boost for a seemingly unelectable Labour Party

By William Hallowell | Editor 

Starmer celebrates Conservative defeat – but with a majority of only 323, this is not a ‘win’.


In May, Starmer was crushed by Conservative gains up and down England during the local elections. Labour lost several councils to the Tories, and the Tories were victorious in what was a crucial by-election in Hartlepool – a historically Red constituency.


Many, across the political spectrum, have heavily criticised Starmer or even dismissed him entirely as a credible candidate for being the Prime Minister. Whilst being unpopular among right-leaning members of the public for his complacency in woke politics, – such as by ‘taking the knee’ – he is also largely unpopular among the ‘hard-left’ of the party and traditional, northern, working-class (predominantly life-long) Labour voters. This was demonstrated by Hartlepool being won by the governing Conservative Party and as a result of removing the whip from former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, which many parliamentary allies, party members and left-wing commentators deemed completely shameful.


Starmer’s time as leader has not been easy: from party membership numbers dropping, to sacking Corbyn (who is still incredibly popular on the hard-left), to growing discontent and threats of a leadership challenge by Corbyn’s allies. What also must be considered is the flip-flopping of party ideology. When he won the Labour leadership contest he portrayed himself as not necessarily a move from the left to the centre, but certainly a move away from the toxicity of Corbynism, which lost Labour the 2019 election. Since then, he has tried to appease two opposing sides of the party. Firstly, the traditional, northern, working-class patriots; secondly, the new brand of Labour which gained momentum under the Corbyn era: the middle-class, university educated, pampered and patronising, bourgeois ‘socialists’ who talk down to the working-class and lecture them on why they’re stupid for backing Brexit or racist for raising concern over the highly divisive Black Lives Matter movement – or ‘moment’, as they won’t let Starmer forget for misspeaking; and with these separate factions within Labour comes the different groups’ priorities.


These middle-class infiltrators place as much emphasis as possible on woke identity politics, cancel culture and making sure people use the - apparently subjective - ‘right’ pronouns. They are the same self-righteous narcissists who shame patriots as ‘flag shaggers’ and ‘racists’. Unfortunately, these racist flag shaggers are the northern workers who lack true representation from senior figures of the Labour Party. By trying to appease both factions, Sir Keir Starmer displeases both: he kneels for the tension-fuelling Black Lives Matter movement, which deems Britain – and anyone who shows an ounce of patriotism – racist and shameful, and then tries to put emphasis on the Union Flag, veterans and patriotism; Yet, Starmer and other Labour politicians seemed surprised when Labour was given a lashing by the patriotic voters he took for granted. One arrogant Derbyshire councillor even accused the public of letting the party down. However, whilst many Labour voters had defected to the Conservatives in May, some feel disgruntled with both the mainstream parties. In the recent by-election in Chesham and Amersham, the Liberal Democrats won the seat, which had been held by the Tories since the 70s.


In the Batley and Spen by-election on Thursday, it seemed there were multiple factors at play than just simply putting it down to a lack of leadership and prevalent division within Labour. Though it was expected that the Conservatives would win it due to increasing popularity demonstrated in May, the seemingly conveniently timed Matt Hancock affair scandal would have almost definitely damaged any chances of the Tories snatching up a Red seat, as party Co-Chairman Amanda Milling said: “it was something that came up on the doorstep”. The Government’s decision to delay ‘freedom day’ from 21 June to 19 July certainly must have had an impact on the close result – a majority which can only be called a ‘win’ in name, due to it having significantly decreased from 3525 to 323.


Keir Starmer said this was a “fantastic result”. It wasn’t. Left-wing rival and former Labour MP George Galloway secured 8264 votes finishing third, a proportion of which may have turned away from Labour. However, in the 2019 general election the Conservatives gained near to 19,000 votes, only securing just short of 13,000 yesterday – so arguably, these votes lost by the Conservatives could have gone to Galloway, as opposed to him taking Labour votes.


Therefore, whilst, yes, Labour did hold onto Batley and Spen, it is hardly a victory to celebrate. With such a small majority, the seat could have easily turned Blue like Hartlepool, and the failure to win an outright majority with Galloway earning over 8000 votes shows there is far more that needs to be addressed by Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour Party if he wants to regain support and increase his chance at winning a general election. This was hardly a “fantastic result”. That being said, holding onto the constituency is a morale booster for Starmer personally, in spite of the doom and gloom in May. Had the Tories won, Starmer would have most likely seen more calls to resign or even a leadership challenge by a Corbyn ally.


Image credit: UK Parliament 

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