Keir Starmer Pledges That "Labour Is Back" After Clinching Batley By-Election Victory
Keir Starmer: "That battle that went on here... that battle isn’t just in Batley & Spen, that is the battle of modern politics."
Keir Starmer has decisively declared that “Labour is back” after the party scrapped to victory over the Conservatives in the Batley and Spen by-election.
Speaking to campaigners in the constituency on Friday morning, the party leader praised the “incredible courage” of winning candidate Kim Leadbeater, adding that she “epitomises everything I want our Labour party to be”.
“She’s of her community, she’s for her community, she’s got integrity, She believes in truth and honesty, and in bringing people together. And that is exactly what I want from our Labour party,” he said.
Polls published in the run-up to Thursday's vote had put Conservative candidate Ryan Stephenson in the lead, but Labour just managed to hold the seat with a slim majority of 323 votes.
The victory will likely be a source of relief for Starmer, whose leadership looked under threat from challengers within the party if he had taken them through their second by-election defeat of the past year.
“This is a victory of hope over division. It is a start. Labour is back,” he said.
“The battle that went on here between decency, and honesty, and bringing people together, and division, manipulation, misinformation, lies — that battle isn’t just in Batley and Spen, that is the battle of modern politics.”
He continued: “The Labour party is in that battle, and we’re going to fight all the way, every inch of the way, and we’re going to win that battle. We’ve got to fight that.”
“This is just the start. I want many more days like this. Labour is coming home."
His comments appeared to reference Tony Blair's 1996 Labour Party conference speech, when the former Prime Minister said: "Labour's coming home. 17 years of hurt never stopped us dreaming."
Starmer has recently hired ex-Blair ere aide Matthew Doyle as his interim director of communications amid a wider shake-up of his backroom team.
In his comments on Friday, the Labour leader also took on a more serious tone, condemning those who had targeted Leadbeater during what many described as a “difficult” campaign.
“This campaign has been tough because others have poisoned it — with hatred, with division, of finding division, of misinformation, of lies, of harassment, threats, and intimidation,” he said.
“That that should have happened in Batley and Spen of all places is disgusting. That that should have happened to Kim, of all people, is unforgivable.”
“For all those who engaged with it, and for all those who didn’t call it out, they should be utterly ashamed of themselves.”
He paid tribute to her sister Jo Cox — the constituency’s former MP who was murdered by a far-right extremist in 2016.
“I was elected into parliament on the same day as Jo Cox and there isn’t a day where we don’t all miss Jo,” he said.
“Kim, she would be so proud to see you today.”
Brendan Cox, husband of Leadbeater's sister Jo, also welcomed the result, agreeing that his late wife would have been “incredibly proud”.
“While the result between the two main parties was close the extremists [and] haters were left trailing. The people of Batley & Spen have voted for decency and positivity once again,” he wrote in a message on Twitter.
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