Shock victory for Labour Party as Kim Leadbeater narrowly wins Batley and Spen by-election
Kim Leadbeater has narrowly won the Batley and Spen by-election in a shock victory for the Labour Party.
Ms Leadbeater - the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox - pushed the Conservative candidate Ryan Stephenson into second place with a majority of just 323 votes, ensuring Labour hold the seat
After two rounds of checks on bundles of ballot papers, Ms Leadbeater was finally declared the winner of the vote with 13,296 votes shortly after 5am on Friday.
Mr Stephenson followed with 12,973 votes and George Galloway - who stood for the Workers Party in the seat with the aim of toppling Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer - came third with 8,264.
Bookies and pollsters had predicted a Conservative victory in the seat that has been Labour since 1997.
Ms Leadbeater said she was “absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and they’ve voted for hope.”
In a short victory speech, she thanked her family, saying “without them I could not have got through the last five years nevermind the last five weeks”.
“I want to give a special shout out to my niece and nephew,” she added, “who I cannot wait to hug as soon as I see them.”
Ms Leadbeater also took the opportunity to thank the police “Who sadly I have needed more than ever over the last few weeks”.
The campaign in Batley and Spen had been tense at times, with clashes and reports of violence.
Last weekend Labour activists alleged that they were pelted with eggs and kicked in the head while out on the campaign trail.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer praised the “brilliant and brave” Ms Leadbeater and her “positive campaign of hope in the face of division.”
“She will be an outstanding Labour MP for Batley and Spen”, he added.
The victory in Batley and Spen will ease the pressure on Labour leader Sir Keir, following two recent by-election losses in former heartland Hartlepool and Chesham and Amersham.
Shortly before the result was announced, Ms Cox’s widower Brendan tweeted ‘More in common x’, in an apparent reference to the maiden speech made by his late wife in 2015, in which she said “we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.
He later tweeted: “We are all incredibly proud of Kim Leadbeater today and Jo would have been too.
"While the result between the two main parties was close the extremists & haters were left trailing.”
After polls closed on Thursday evening, Ms Leadbeater had condemned the unacceptable lows” of the campaign.
In a statement posted on Twitter she said: “The acts of intimidation and violence by some who have come here with the sole aim of sowing division has been deeply upsetting to witness.
“Whatever the result tonight, the first priorities of the new MP must be to bring our community together and start working for local people in every part of the constituency I am proud to call my home.”
Mr Galloway said he would take legal action to get the result set aside, claiming his election effort had been damaged by a “false statement” that he had laughed while Ms Leadbeater was abused on the campaign trail.
“The whole election campaign was dominated by lazy and false tropes about our campaign, about the thousands of people that voted for us, about their motives for doing so, in a way which defamed them as much as it defamed me,” he said.
“So on multiple grounds we will apply to the courts for this election result to be set aside.”
Turn out was 47.6% across the constituency, significantly down on the 66.5% recorded at the General Election less than two years ago.
Batley and Spen by-election full results:
Paul Bickerdike (Christian Peoples Alliance) - 102
Mike Davies (Alliance For Green Socialism) - 104
Jayda Fransen (Independent) - 50
George Galloway (Workers Party) - 8264
Tom Gordon (Liberal Democrats) - 1254
Thérèse Hirst (English Democrats) - 207
Howling Laud Hope (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) - 107
Susan Laird (Heritage Party) - 33
Kim Leadbeater (Labour Party) - 13296
Oliver Purser (Social Democratic Party) - 66
Corey Robinson (Yorkshire Party) - 816
Andrew Smith (Rejoin EU) - 75
Ryan Stephenson (Conservative Party) - 12973
Jack Thomson (UK Independence Party) - 151
Jonathan Tilt (Freedom Alliance) - 100
Anne Marie Waters (The For Britain Movement) - 97