‘I won’t quit if we lose’: Labour leader Keir Starmer vows to remain in place even if party is defeated in crucial Batley by-election
- Sir Keir Starmer has vowed he won’t resign if Labour loses crucial by-election
- Spokesman insisted he is on a ‘four-year path’ to lead party back to power
- Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire has voted Labour since 1997
- There are concerns it could be seized by Conservatives in by-election today
Sir Keir Starmer has vowed he will not resign even if Labour loses today’s crucial by-election in Batley and Spen.
The Labour leader’s spokesman insisted yesterday that he is on a ‘four-year path’ to lead the party back into power and will not stand down if he oversees another electoral defeat.
The constituency in West Yorkshire has voted Labour since 1997, but there are real concerns in the party that it could be seized by the Conservatives.
New polling suggests as many as four in ten Labour members would want Sir Keir to stand down after a loss there.
Sir Keir Starmer has vowed he will not resign even if Labour loses today’s crucial by-election in Batley and Spen. The constituency in West Yorkshire has voted Labour since 1997, but there are real concerns in the party that it could be ceased by Conservations (pictured: Sir Keir and Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater)
Sir Keir’s spokesman played down the prospect of victory for his party by saying it ‘has always been a marginal seat’ and that winning ‘was always going to be challenging’. ‘Keir is not going to resign,’ he responded when asked by journalists at a Westminster briefing. He added: ‘Keir has been absolutely clear that this is a four-year path to get back into power and he is determined to lead the party into the next general election and to take us back into government.’
His comments came after a poll found 41 per cent of Labour members would want Sir Keir to stand down and make way for fresh leadership if Batley and Spen is lost. But 48 per cent would back Sir Keir to remain in place regardless, according to the YouGov survey for Sky News of 871 members conducted over the past week, which had the remaining 11 per cent as undecided over his fate.
The research also suggested that 69 per cent of Labour members would prefer Andy Burnham, pictured, as leader, despite the Greater Manchester Mayor no longer being an MP and therefore unable to immediately challenge Sir Keir. Though Mr Burnham is clear favourite, Commons home affairs committee chairman Yvette Cooper is the leading current MP in the event of a sudden Labour leadership contest. Some 35 per cent of members would choose her, with shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy on 13 per cent and deputy leader Angela Rayner on 12 per cent.
In an interview with the New Statesman, Mr Burnham said he would like to go back to the Commons, but not in the near future. ‘I ain’t going back any time soon,’ he said. ‘I get asked it relentlessly: would I ever go back? So the answer is, I would, but it’s not any time soon. I’m supporting Keir – I want him to win the next general election, and I’ll do whatever I can to help him achieve that.’
The research also suggested that 69 per cent of Labour members would prefer Andy Burnham, pictured, as leader, despite the Greater Manchester Mayor no longer being an MP and therefore unable to immediately challenge Sir Keir
There is a prospect of a Labour backbench revolt against Sir Keir if Batley and Spen is lost, but it is unclear whether any challenger would be able to secure the support of the 40 Labour MPs needed to trigger a leadership contest.
Labour officials are pessimistic about the chances of defending the former seat of Jo Cox, who was murdered in the constituency in 2016. The party’s candidate, Kim Leadbeater is Mrs Cox’s sister. The Batley and Spen by-election was triggered after Tracy Brabin, who won the seat for Labour in 2019, was elected as mayor of West Yorkshire in May. A Survation poll published last week put the Tories on 47 per cent, up 11 per cent from the 2019 general election, while Labour was on 43 per cent.
Meanwhile, George Galloway, the Workers Party candidate in the by-election, accused employees of the Labour council in Batley of tearing down his posters. But Kirklees Council said it removed them because their design did not meet regulations.