Leadbeater calls for divisions to be healed after Labour narrowly hangs on to Batley

By Hamed Chapman 

London, (The Muslim News): Kim Leadbeater says she was “absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and chosen hope” after hanging onto the Labour seat previously held by her murdered sister Jo Cox.

In a short victory speech Friday, Leadbeater paid tribute to her family and friends, saying that “without them, I could not have got through the last five years, never mind the last five weeks” of the bitter campaign election campaign.

She won by a majority reduced from 3,525 to just 323 over Tory candidate Ryan Stephenson in what had been the latest “red wall” seat Labour had been expected to lose, especially if the party failed to hang onto the crucial Muslim vote in the constituency.

“Sadly there has been some nastiness during this byelection, and there are some divisions that need to be healed, but I think if anyone can achieve that, I can,” Cox’s sister later told BBC television.

Keir Starmer, who could have faced a challenge to his leadership if Labour had lost, described the narrow victory as a “fantastic result,” which he said was won “against the odds”.

“Kim has shown inspiring resilience in the face of hatred and intimidation. She was unafraid to call it out and ran a positive campaign of hope,” Starmer said in a short statement.

Later, speaking to the Lobby journalists, he said, “It is a very important moment. It shows Labour is back.”

Third in the poll came former Labour and Respect MP George Galloway with 8,264 votes standing for his Workers Party. He said he was contesting the seat so that it would be “curtains” for Starmer if Labour lost.

Crucial in the by-election were Muslim voters, estimated to number 8,600 and who many have traditionally supported Labour but have felt their votes were taken for granted.

During the hustings a group of prominent Muslim organisations wrote an open letter to Starmer urgently asking for policy clarifications on such issues as Islamophobia, justice for the Palestinians as well as on Kashmir.

“After decades of supporting this party, knocking on doors, organising voter turnout drives and so much more, we are now in serious doubt over whether we can continue with our support,” the letter stated.

In response, the Labour leader reaffirmed his commitment to fight Islamophobia on all fronts, including within his party, while insisting Muslims would always have a political home in the Labour Party.

“Your steadfast and enduring support has been, and always will be, crucial to the Labour Party. And I am clear that we cannot take the support of any community for granted – every vote must always be earned.”

After the result, Labour Councillor, Shabir Pandor, Leader of the Kirklees Council, issued a statement thanking all who continued to support the party, which he aid meant so much to him.

“We now need to begin the work of rebuilding our communities and making sure we get the investment we need in our community. Lessons have been learnt and together with our new MP we will always put our residents first,” Pandor said.

Additional report by Ahmed J Versi

Analysis of the Batley and Spen byelection will be published in this month’s The Muslim News newspaper

[Photo: Afzal Khan, MP for Manchester Gorton, Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons with Kim Leadbeater, Dr Rajpura, Councillor Mahmood Akhtar and Councillor Shabir Pandor, Leader of the Kirklees Counci during By-election campaign in Batley and Spen. Photo: Courtesy Afzal Khan]

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