Relief for Starmer as Labour holds Batley and Spen

Kim Leadbeater has won the Batley and Spen by-election in a result which will allow Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to breathe a sigh of relief.

Labour faced turmoil if the West Yorkshire seat was lost, but Ms Leadbeater’s success will ease the pressure on Sir Keir.

She took the seat with 13,296 votes, a majority of 323 over Tory candidate Ryan Stephenson after a bitter contest.

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George Galloway, who targeted voters in traditionally Labour areas with the aim of toppling Sir Keir, came third.

The result means Ms Leadbeater now represents the seat previously held by her sister Jo Cox, who was murdered in the constituency in 2016.

Sir Keir hailed the “fantastic result” for the “brilliant and brave” Ms Leadbeater after a contest marred by allegations of dirty tricks and violence.

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

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

In her acceptance speech, Ms Leadbeater said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and they’ve voted for hope.”

She thanked her family saying “without them I could not have got through the last five years never mind the last five weeks.”

Ms Leadbeater, in reference to the controversy surrounding the campaign, said: “I want to say a huge thank you to the police who, sadly, I have needed more than ever over the last few weeks.”

She concluded: “The focus now is catching up on a bit of sleep, maybe having a few glasses of fizz, and then there is lots to do, and I think the campaign has highlighted that there’s lots to do.

“But I’m going to crack on with it and I will do my very best to represent the whole of Batley and Spen as their new MP. I am absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and they voted for hope.”