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Tuesday 29 June 2021

Batley And Spen - Hello Lefties

In the run-up to the 2019 General Election, a story I’ve told before, Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips, her seat being a safe Labour hold, ventured north to help out those facing a more serious challenge from the Tories. She door-knocked in Haslington, part of the Crewe and Nantwich constituency, in support of Laura Smith. Later that day, she looked in on Stoke on Trent North to support Ruth Smeeth.

No-one is going to pretend that Laura Smith and Ruth Smeeth inhabit the same point on the Labour spectrum: one is firmly on the left, the other more soft left. But Ms Phillips was not picking and choosing depending on how left or centrist they were: they were Labour candidates, she was Labour, all were standing on the manifesto agreed beforehand, and that was that. It is a lesson some on the left are most reluctant to take on board.

Which brings us to the Batley and Spen by-election, taking place this Thursday, and a campaign that Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater is finding difficult and often not pleasant going, not least because some who claim to be Labour are actually willing her to lose.

Why this should be is not difficult to understand: party leader Keir Starmer has been a disappointment to many of those who knocked doors in late 2019, and took a significant amount of abuse for so doing. He has given the impression that a war on the Labour left is not only a priority, but also a vote winner. The thought as to which wing of the party provides all those activists who canvass and leaflet is not allowed to enter.

Moreover, it is maddeningly difficult to get the current Labour top team to spell out what the party now stands for. But while that may cause some supporters not to turn out to canvass or leaflet, it should never, but never, make them support the opposition.

That opposition is not just the Tories, who are in effect just sitting pretty and waiting to have the constituency delivered to them on a split vote, but more significantly George Galloway, who recently urged his fellow Scots to vote Tory, and has been hanging out with the likes of former Brexit Party Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage.

Galloway is doing his man of the people act well: he is also benefiting from a campaign of aggression aimed at Ms Leadbeater, which may be coming from his supporters, but is not supported by him, although he is the prime beneficiary of it. Those with long memories of Galloway interventions may recall something similar happening in 2005.

He opposed sitting Labour MP Oona King in Bethnal Green and Bow. Ms King “described the contest as ‘one of the dirtiest ..we have ever seen in British politics’ and complained of ‘quite disturbing’ anti-semitic and racial abuse”. Ms Leadbeater has faced a campaign of homophobic abuse, including some of those non-attributable leaflets.

Worst of all, the male aggression being meted out to Ms Leadbeater - in the constituency where her sister Jo Cox was brutally murdered by a neo-Nazi just five years ago - appears not to be being seriously challenged by Galloway, whose campaign is attracting favourable coverage from those on the left opposed to Starmer’s leadership.

I asked the question earlier as to whether Galloway, in view of his Parliamentary voting record, was a serious candidate. Those on the left who have effectively given him a free pass have not yet addressed this issue. It is high time they did so.

Meanwhile, consider this: if it was wrong for one wing of the Labour Party to deliberately undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in the run-up to the 2017 General Election - and it was - then it is equally wrong to deliberately undermine the candidature of Kim Leadbeater. If you are Labour, you should support her, and what you should not, repeat not, REPEAT NOT be doing is to trot out sympathetic coverage of George Galloway.

You oppose what Starmer is doing as party leader - fine. But to will the party to lose a Parliamentary by-election as a way of weakening his leadership is wrong. The time to argue over the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the current party leadership is not during a by-election campaign. The Tories wouldn’t do it. Nor should Labour.

You oppose Labour, then you are not Labour. Someone needs to give their head a shake.

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Michael said...


Steve said...

Jesse Philips "I would knife Corbyn in the front not the back", hardly from the left of the party. Labour deserve to lose this seat as a reminder to Starmer that he cannot win seats without the help of the left, his undemocratic purge of left wing sitting CLP chair persons and secretaries because he does not like what they table, his stich up of delegates for party conference by preventing votes and his abject failure to carry out his promises he gave to become leader. Starmers one and only interest is "the Israeli lobby"

SimonB said...

I agree, members who work against the party should be expelled.

That, of course, includes the members of the parliamentary party who worked so hard against us in 2019

Shai Masot said...

Smeeth is "soft left" is she? Ha-ha-ha!

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile in other news … hands up all those who think that the chris Whittey sumo headlock debacle is a dead cat designed
to take the media’s gaze off Hancock’s hand cock.

Jim said...

I have been a Labour Party member for over fifty years and canvassed, leafleted etc whenever and wherever I could. I will not do that for the party as it now is and although I would do nothing to actively hurt the party ,for the first time in my life I will not be distraught if we lose a seat we should comfortably hold. You can only be kicked so many times before you say enough is enough.

MozG said...

If Starmer's Labour win this seat he would see it as approval of his campaign against socialists in his own party. The loss of one more seat to the Tories in the other hand would have a negligible effect on anything other than possibly attracting some increase in funds from the Tory government into the constituency. Using Kim Leadbeater's family connection despite her not even being a Labour party member is typical opportunist Starmer and worthy of contempt.

Sam said...

If Kim Leadbetter loses I doubt it will be because of Labour left dirty tricks rather the constituents don't vote in enough numbers for her. Galloway may just draw enough away from her and that seems to be his role these days - help decimate Labour. Whatever happens,it's still down to Starmer's leadership and the team around him. Their complete viciousness towards the left who built Labour over decades for them to waltz in and demonize them is a travesty. No-one who blamed Corbyn (for increasing Labour's vote from the final disastrous days of Blair /Brown,inspiring 100,000s of young people to join the party & fill it's coffers) should pretend the current leadership is not ultimately responsible for the party's current woes.And sometimes an illness has to get really bad before the cancer is cut out.

Anonymous said...

While we obeyed the rules, went out in the rain and cold to campaign for the party there were some (Ergon House) who diverted much needed funds and resources from the local branches for their own ends! These same people are now running the top of our once great party and no mention of the Forde Report! Sorry Tim why should we back the leadership now when they did bugger all for us ?

Neville said...

When centrists attack the left and willing the party to lose the general election, so it should be the right of the left to attack Labour. Keir starmer has been attacking the left eevr sice he got elected leader, so it is in the left's best interest to see Ledbetter defeated. (Ledbetter would have won far more supporter in Batley had she stood as an independent)

Spenboro Chris said...

When Galloway doesn’t criticise his extremists, it’s bad.
When Starmer does criticise his extremists, it’s bad.
OK, got it.

Anonymous said...


How does it feel?

Anonymous said...

@ 07:35.

When red tory Starmer Quislings deliberately lie, sabotage an election, get paid off and do treachery to put in a far right thieving tory government...that's "good".

When decent people fight against that corruption...that's "bad".

OK, got it.