Voter contempt for Labour in Batley & Spen as campaigners heckled and pelted in party’s heartlands

Labour MPs claim activists are being confronted with an onslaught of abuse on the campaign trail in Batley and Spen, where a by-election is being held on Thursday.

Pundits, pollsters and apparatchiks fully expect Labour to lose the seat to the Tories, they may even come third due to George Galloway’s presence on the ballot sheet.

On Friday, Labour’s candidate, Kim Leadbetter was captured on film walking away from a confrontation with members of the seat’s sizeable Muslim community, who were branded by the media as anti-LGBT campaigners.

In the clip, Leadbetter is seen being asked to “reassure Muslim parents who don’t want their children to learn about LGBT” as she walks back to her car. She declines to respond.

The incident is a vivid illustration of the dangerous game of identity politics played by Labour that has seen its red wall in the North of England crumble.

At the beginning of the clip, the party’s candidate is seen saying “Muslims deserve better” while showing off her credentials as a local girl, but does she stand up for Muslim values? And is she qualified for the job?

Leadbetter is the sister of Jo Cox, the Labour MP tragically murdered in 2016. The party leadership has been criticised for moving her into the position. She may be local, but she is a political novice compared to Labour councillors who have been active in the community for years and years.

The by-election was touted as make-or-break for Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer, after he foolishly parachuted an outsider into Hartlepool, where a by-election was fought last month and lost by Labour. The party had held the seat for almost fifty years.

But Starmer appears not to have learnt his lesson in selecting Leadbetter, who was visibly unprepared for the confrontation caught on camera.

Labour are also paying for the earlier strategic error of allowing outgoing MP, Tracey Brabin to run for West Yorkshire mayor, triggering the by-election, knowing full well the seat would be put in jeopardy. Brabin’s mayoral win was one of the few positives during the local elections which saw Hartlepool turn blue.

In March, Brabin herself had knocked Labour’s reputation down a peg by saying she was “pleased” a local teacher had been harshly censured for showing images of the prophet Muhammad in a religious studies class. She later tried to row back on her comments.

While the gesture might have been seen as a clever move to attract support from Muslim voters – according to the 2011 census, 52.2% of Batley East is Muslim while 30.5% of the population are Muslim – unfortunately for Labour, George Galloway, who does not pander to LGBT, is on the scene to mop up those votes thanks to his strident support for the Islamic community over many years.

Leadbetter claimed Galloway and members of his Workers Party were “laughing” near the scene of where she was filmed being rattled. A “false statement”, said the firebrand former Labour MP.

Brabin has told the Evening Standard, she saw Labour activists being pelted with eggs and physically abused. “The group I was with included young people and the elderly. I witnessed them being egged, pushed and forced to the ground and kicked in the head,” said Brabin.

West Yorkshire police are reported to be investigating the incident. “We know why tensions are rising in our streets. Those who want to sow division are not welcome in our community,” added the former soap actress who as mayor holds the responsibility of police and crime commissioner for West Yorkshire.

“The actions of these people do not represent the Batley and Spen I know. We are kinder than this.”

Labour MP, Holly Lynch also had something to say. “There has been a series of increasingly serious and violent attacks in recent days and this is absolutely unacceptable.

“Lawless thugs are seeking to intimidate and attack those involved in the proper democratic process.”

Last week, the Foxhole reported Labour councillors in the seat cancelled a free speech event. The rally went ahead, attended by Reclaim leader, Laurence Fox, but contrary to rumours, Tommy Robinson did not attend.

Three arrests were made, but the event went largely without incident. 

Leadbetter broke her vow to only engage with local media to speak to the Mirror. “What upsets me is I think there’s going to be a number of people who’ll come in here with their own agendas, trying to cause upset for the people of Batley and Spen. People round here have been through enough. They’ve had five years, a number of elections, a number of by-elections, they actually just want to live peacefully together,” she told the lefty tabloid.

Following Cox’s death, the big parties other than Labour chose to not put up candidates out of respect for the ensuing by-election won by Brabin. Voters in the area are known to have felt ignored by the decision.

Do they “just want to live peacefully together”, as Leadbetter claims or do they simply want to be listened to and represented?