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BATLEY & STARMER: Labour Holds Batley and Spen in Tense By-Election

LABOUR held on to the West Yorkshire Batley and Spen seat after a nail-biting by-election night.

Keir Starmer was braced for defeat and a leadership challenge, but Labour pulled off a shock win in the tight race.

The Labour leader welcomed what he described as a “fantastic result” for the “brilliant and brave” candidate Kim Leadbeater, who is the sister of former Batley MP Jo Cox.

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Kim Leadbeater to run for Labour nomination in Batley and Spen by election - YorkshireLive

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

“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.”

Leadbeater said after winning: “I’m absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and they’ve voted for hope.”

Tory spinners said the race was “too close to call” as the counting gets underway.

Labour loyalist Kim and Tory newcomer Ryan Stephenson vied for the key battleground seat.

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All you need to know about Batley and Spen by election candidate Ryan Stephenson | Yorkshire Post

The Labour stronghold was marred by issues after a row over pro-LGBT education in schools and free-speech rights of teachers broke out due to Muslim tensions.

If the seat was lost by Labour – it could’ve spelt the end of Starmer’s leadership, Labour had a majority of just 3,000 and bookies predicted the Tories will romp to victory.

Former Labour MP George Galloway who stood in the election was attacked for his controversial message.

A Labour source said: “Galloway’s nasty campaign has hit our vote while the Tories are picking up 2019 independent votes, and places that were starting to look more positive for us seem to have swung back.”

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“It’s going to be a long night.”

“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.”

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She thanked her family saying “without them I could not have got through the last five years nevermind the last five weeks.”

More follows.

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