Labour on course to lose Batley and Spen by-election, poll suggests

Poll shows Tories taking the seat held by Labour at every election since 1997

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Saturday 19 June 2021 11:14 BST
<p>Labour leader Keir Starmer could be in for another electoral drubbing</p>

Labour leader Keir Starmer could be in for another electoral drubbing

Keir Starmer is on course for another electoral battering at the Batley and Spen by-election next month, according to a new constituency poll.

The new survey of the “red wall” seat published by Survation found the Tories taking the West Yorkshire constituency with 47 per cent of the vote.

Labour would trail in second place on 41 per cent of the vote, while former Labour and Respect MP George Galloway would take six per cent.

If the figures are repeated on 1 July the result would amount to the second formerly safe Labour seat lost by Sir Keir's party in the space of two months.

The party got a battering at the Hartlepool by-election in early May, a seat held by Labour since its creation in 1974.

The Labour leader’s critics have urged him to be clearer and more distinctive on policy, with voters telling pollsters they don’t know what what he stands for.

But virtually all senior Labour figures have so far shied away from calling on him to resign despite a lacklustre performance. Sir Keir this week launched a policy review chaired by MP Anneliese Dodds.

It comes after the party recorded its lowest score in recent history at this week’s Chesham and Amersham by-election, winning just 1.6 per cent of the vote and trailing the Green Party. That contest was effectively a two-horse race between the Lib Dems and the Tories.

Sir Keir has blamed Labour’s poor ratings on the success of the vaccination drive, though there is little evidence for a substantial increase in support for the Conservatives. The Tories are currently polling at a lower level than they were during the first lockdown, but support for Labour has fallen away from a high late last year that saw them draw level with Boris Johnson's party.

The new poll of Batley and Spen found that Mr Johnson was a net asset there, with a positive favourability rating of +18 per cent. This compares to Sir Keir's rating of -32 per cent. Fifty-five per cent of voters there say Mr Johnson would make the best prime minister compared to 18 per cent Sir Keir.

Mr Johnson was most trusted on all main policy areas polls with large margins on Brexit, Covid-19, and the economy. The Tory leader was even ahead on the NHS, traditional Labour territory, by 45 per cent to 30 per cent.

Activists in the constituency have reported the issue of Palestine being brought up by many voters on the doorstep, with Labour's support for the cause during the latest conflict seen as muted.

Labour’s candidate in the constituency is Kim Leadbeater, the sister of Jo Cox. The late Ms Cox represented the seat for Labour until 2016 when she was assassinated by a right-wing extremist during the EU referendum campaign. Labour has held the seat at every election since 1997.

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