Why George Galloway may have won so much of Batley and Spen by-election vote

Never write off George Galloway. One of the great mavericks of British politics is also one of its great survivors, collecting more than one fifth of the vote in Batley and Spen when other “fringe” candidates fell victim to the traditional by-election squeeze.

Standing for the Workers Party, which he set up just 18 months ago, the former Labour and Respect MP came a convincing third behind Labour and the Conservatives in a campaign blighted by claims of dirty tricks and intimidation of voters.

With 8,264 votes he made an undoubted difference to the outcome of the battle for the West Yorkshire seat, which Labour’s Kim Leadbeater won with a tiny majority of 323. Quite how he affected the result is harder to gauge with confidence.

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George Galloway after Kim Leadbeater won the Batley and Spen by-election to represent the seat previously held by her sister Jo Cox, who was murdered in the constituency in 2016. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Mr Galloway has traditionally been characterised as being to the left of Labour, expelled from its ranks after urging British troops to “refuse to obey illegal orders” issued to them during the Iraq war.

His vehement criticism of the invasion helped to propel him to winning the seats of Bethnal Green and Bow and Bradford West under the Respect banner.

But he does not fit the traditional image of a left-wing campaigner.

Although he targeted Labour supporters in Batley and Spen – and made no secret of his mission to topple Sir Keir Starmer – his socially conservative message may have appealed to some voters who were leaning towards the Tories.

Equally his presence in the campaign could have inadvertently led to tactical voting for Ms Leadbetter among constituents dismayed by the prospect of a potential Galloway victory.


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