Keir Starmer to defy calls to quit if Labour lose Batley and Spen by-election

Keir Starmer will stay put as Labour leader even if the party faces another disastrous defeat in the Batley and Spen by-election this week, allies say.

Sources close to Mr Starmer claim he is determined to get Labour back on the front foot even if, as looks likely, it loses the ‘red wall’ seat in Yorkshire.

They claim the party leader is “not going anywhere” and will “hold firm”, suggesting that grumbling colleagues should “get their priorities right”.

Mr Starmer is expected to face calls from the Labour left to quit if he oversees another by-election trouncing on Thursday.

After the party lost Hartlepool, veteran MP Diane Abbott warned it would be “curtains” for Mr Starmer’s leadership if the party went on to lose Batley and Spen.

Keir Starmer on the campaign trail in Batley and Spen with Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater
Keir Starmer on the campaign trail in Batley and Spen with Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater

The Mirror understands that MPs on the left of the party have been speculating over who should run in any leadership contest should he decide to step down.

However, rivals could struggle to reach the threshold required to get on the ballot unless he resigns first.

One Starmer ally told the Mirror: “Keir isn’t going anywhere and anyone spending their time on WhatsApp groups speculating about leadership contests need to get their priorities right.

“The British people are worried about their jobs, their kids and the future of their community.

“That’s what Keir is focused on, that’s what he will spend the summer talking about and that’s why he’s the leader who will take us into the next election.”

Another added: “He knows this isn’t easy but he is absolutely committed to seeing it through and getting Labour back to a better place. He’s not going anywhere”.

A third said: “He just has to hold firm”.

Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in her constituency in 2016
Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in her constituency in 2016

The odds are stacked against Labour hanging on to Batley and Spen where Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, is standing.

Labour’s Tracy Brabin, whose election as West Yorkshire mayor resulted in the by-election, said activists have been pelted with eggs and kicked in the head.

She said she was leafleting for Labour in Batley on Sunday when her group, including young people and the elderly, was “followed, verbally abused and physically assaulted”.

Ms Brabin added: “We know why tensions are rising in our streets. Those who want to sow division are not welcome in our community.

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

Speaking on a visit to Batley yesterday, Boris Johnson said: “I think it’s appalling that people should face abuse of that kind, absolutely appalling.”

It came after Ms Leadbeater was shouted at in the street by a man while campaigning on Friday.

The Labour hopeful told the Mirror: “What upsets me is there’s going to be 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.”


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