How different parts of the left are reacting to the Batley and Spen result

It’s a win of major significance not just for Kim Leadbeater but for the Labour Party nationally.

The pundits and bookies were proved wrong again. Labour has managed to hold on to Batley and Spen, with a majority of just 323 votes. 

It’s a win of major significance not just for Kim Leadbeater, whose sister Jo Cox was murdered in the very seat by a far-right terrorist and who had to face down at times a divisive and nasty campaign by some of her opponents, but also for the Labour party nationally.

Before the result, there were rumours of a potential leadership challenge to Keir Starmer if the party had lost, but the result is now being held up by his supporters as vindication of his leadership.

Labour leader Keir Starmer took to Twitter to congratulate Kim. He said: “Fantastic result for the brilliant and brave @KimLeadbeater.

“Kim ran a positive campaign of hope, in the face of division. 

“She will be an outstanding Labour MP for Batley and Spen.”

Shabana Mahmood, who replaced Angela Rayner as national campaign coordinator, described the victory as an ‘astonishing result’, adding: “Kim has been a superb candidate, and this win is so richly deserved. It’s been an absolute privilege to campaign with her week in, week out.”

However, the grassroots Labour group Momentum said the party could not pretend that the result was ‘an election winning performance.’

Momentum Co-Chair Andrew Scattergood said: “Thanks to the work of hundreds of grassroots activists and an excellent local candidate, Labour has held this seat. 

“But we can’t pretend that this was a general election winning performance. Our vote share today was down 20% on the 2017 General Election.

“This narrow victory must act as a wakeup call for the leadership: we can no longer take Labour’s core vote, particularly Muslim voters, for granted.  

“Labour needs to be a party that fights on the same side as working people and argues that workers, not billionaires, should control how society is rebuilt after the pandemic.”

Diane Abbott, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, said the win was a great result for Kim but added that the Labour Party had to refine policy and not abandon policy which was right in 2017 and 2019.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell took to Twitter to congratulate Leadbeater but also added: “Let’s all learn some lessons from the by-election & get stuck into getting rid of the Tories. The 40% of children in my constituency living in poverty need us to.”

Michael Walker of Novara media wrote on Twitter: “Holding Batley & Spen by a thread won’t be enough to win a general election, but Starmer will have a reprieve and a chance to reboot his leadership. 

“Will he come up with some ideas for once, or just intensify factional war against the left?”

Basit Mahmood is co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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