Analysis

Hancock, dirty campaign, racism, an invisible Tory candidate – Starmer still managed to throw away over 90% of Labour’s 2019 majority

Shameful Batley and Spen campaign sees Labour scrape through by just 323 votes in seat that had been safe since 1997

Keir Starmer’s dwindling band of supporters have greeted Labour’s win in Batley and Spen this morning with giddy relief. But the spin must not be allowed to obscure the facts.

Look at what Labour did in its desperation to hang onto the seat: Labour fought a dirty campaign, smearing the constituency’s large Muslim population as both antisemitic and violent; opponent George Galloway was falsely accused, a potentially criminal act, of laughing while Kim Leadbeater was abused in the street – a claim shown by video evidence to be false; the Tory candidate conducted an extremely low-profile campaign; the party itself feared it was so toxic under Keir Starmer that the word Labour did not appear in the body text of its main campaign leaflets.

And Matt Hancock’s disgrace dented Tory support, apparently just enough.

But in spite of all this, Labour’s margin over the Tories was just 323 votes – the ‘win’ represented the shredding of 92% of Labour’s 2019 majority of 3,525 in a seat that has been solidly Labour since 1997. So much for ‘long Corbyn’.

On the same night, Labour lost vote share massively to the Tories – the Tories who have killed 150,000 people and more in the past 15 months – in a number of by-elections, with huge swings away from Starmer’s Labour in spite of the Hancock scandal and Dominic Cummings’s recent revelations:

Just avoiding one defeat doesn’t change reality: if Labour is remotely serious about electoral relevance, let alone about actually changing the country for the better, Starmer still has to go.

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