Analysis: What next for Sir Keir Starmer as Labour hold Batley and Spen

Sir Keir Starmer was handed a reprieve for the ages this week after Kim Leadbeater, the sister of the late Jo Cox, won Batley and Spen by a razor-thin 323 votes.

The result is a huge blow to the Conservative party, but even more so for those on the left who spent the past week falling over themselves to prepare for a leadership challenge that now will not come.

Think of Andy Burnham a man who loves representing Manchester so much he's doing interviews about trying to get out of it.

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Or Diane Abbott, Jon Trickett and Rebecca-Long Bailey, all of whom raised the prospect of a defeat being his end.

Labour party leader Keir Starmer was celebrating with Kim Leadbeater in Clackheaton after she won the Batley and Spen by-election.
Labour party leader Keir Starmer was celebrating with Kim Leadbeater in Clackheaton after she won the Batley and Spen by-election.

For Angela Rayner, it gives her more time to find the allies who briefed the day before the election she was ready for a leadership bid.

The Labour deputy leader will be delighted to find out who those speaking for her were, so she can give them a telling off almost as half-hearted as her denials.

As for George Galloway, who ran a divisive and hateful campaign, voters can go back to forgetting who he is, if they haven’t already.

It was a battle won through its candidate, a working-class local who understands the issues and speaks and looks like those around her.

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This combined with a superb ground game, weak Tory message and Matt Hancock’s wandering hands allowed Labour to win the seat, despite the Tories insisting it was simply a “hold”.

This was no referendum on Sir Keir’s leadership, and the victory does not belong to the former head of prosecutions, but in making their plans public beforehand it will act as a far better defence for the Labour leader.

The polling is still poor, and Sir Keir is yet to have a moment where the public see him as the next Prime Minister, but he now has space and more time to arrest that.

With a growing grip on the party and the possibility of a good conference, Sir Keir can once again look at the opposition, rather than the snakes in the grass.

The real question is with two defeats in a row and continued questions over his leadership, can Boris Johnson cling on?

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