Batley & Spen

2015 Result:
Conservative: 15769 (31.2%)
Labour: 21826 (43.2%)
Lib Dem: 2396 (4.7%)
Green: 1232 (2.4%)
UKIP: 9080 (18%)
TUSC: 123 (0.2%)
Others: 53 (0.1%)
MAJORITY: 6057 (12%)

Category: Safe Labour seat

Geography: Yorkshire and the Humber, West Yorkshire. Part of the Kirklees council area.

Main population centres: Batley, Heckmondwike, Cleckheaton, Liversedge, Birkenshaw, Gomersal.

Profile: The Batley part of the seat consists of the working class town of Batley, a former mill town that has a large Asian population from the demand for cheap Labour in the last century. The Spen in the seat title refers not to a particular settlement, but to the collection of former textile towns and villages of the Spen Valley, which tend to be smaller, whiter and almost semi-rural.

Politics: Batley tends to vote Labour, while the other towns and villages are more Conservative, making this a marginal seat between the Conservatives and Labour. This is the sort of ethnically mixed seat where the Conservatives have struggled in recent years, having fallen further and further behind since first losing the seat in 1997.

Current MP
JO COX (Labour) First elected as MP for Batley & Spen in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 17159 (34%)
Lab: 21565 (42%)
LDem: 8095 (16%)
BNP: 3685 (7%)
Oth: 605 (1%)
MAJ: 4406 (9%)
Con: 12186 (31%)
Lab: 17974 (46%)
LDem: 5731 (15%)
BNP: 2668 (7%)
Oth: 649 (2%)
MAJ: 5788 (15%)
Con: 14160 (37%)
Lab: 19224 (50%)
LDem: 3989 (10%)
GRN: 595 (2%)
Oth: 574 (1%)
MAJ: 5064 (13%)
Con: 17072 (36%)
Lab: 23213 (49%)
LDem: 4133 (9%)
Oth: 856 (2%)
MAJ: 6141 (13%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
IMTIAZ AMEEN (Conservative)
JO COX (Labour)
JOHN LAWSON (Liberal Democrat)
ALEKSANDAR LUKIC (UKIP) Educated at Heckmondwike Grammar School. Teacher.
KARL VARLEY (Patriotic Socialist)
Comments - 727 Responses on “Batley & Spen”
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  1. I’ve a question for Pete or anyone else who may know. Am I right in thinking that had Brighouse and Spenborough existed in 2010, the Tories would have won it more comfortably than they managed in 1979?

  2. I think you’re right – it seems like Brighouse has become more Conservative in recent years than it used to be. And Rastrick is quite strongly Conservative-inclined on top of that.

  3. Although Anthony’s profile is quite good, Heckmondwike now seems to have ended its love affair with the BNP & settled down into being quite a strongly Labour town again. Cleckheaton is certainly quite Conservative.

  4. Hard to tell, Barnaby. Locally its dominated by a husband-and-wife LibDem team, but how the votes pan out nationally is more difficult to say

  5. By-election in Liversedge and Gomersal ward yesterday

    Lab 1517
    Con 1378
    LD 599

    Turnout: 25.3%

    Compared to 2012, Conservatives are down 10 points while Labour is up 5%
    Compared to 2011, Tories are down 7 points, Labour is up 2%.
    Compared to 2010, Con down 3 points, Labour up 17 points.

  6. That’s a most instructive contrast with the poor Labour result in Southampton yesterday. This looks like an excellent result for Labour & perhaps gives the party a serious chance of taking control of Kirklees council next year. I’m sure Labour has won the ward before, but it must surely be quite a few years ago.

  7. In fact 2 further gains would be enough for Labour now. Chances must surely be very strong that the party will achieve that.

  8. I don’t think Labour has ever won the ward under its current boundaries – we used to win the old Spen ward sometimes but the last boundary change was not favourable and tipped it into the Tory column whilst making Heckmondwike easier

  9. Interesting gossip in the Yorkshire press about Mike Wood MP retiring. In a coded and well scripted sound bite his spokesman said “Mike has no plans to announce his retirement.”

    So he is not denying he might retire! He has just not announced it.

  10. There’s an article about Wood’s possible retirement also on another local paper (called The Press). It was published the day before the Examiner’s piece. They say Wood is pondering his future but Shabir Pandor and Shahid Malik (former Dewsbury MP) are lobbying for the seat in case a vacancy arises

  11. Surely if Mike Wood were to stand down, the local constituency wouldn’t be so foolish to select Shahid Malik. I hope not.

  12. Does anyone know why this seat – such a sucess story for the Tories in 1983, 1987 and 1992 – has gone so badly wrong for them?
    Is it just changes in the area, or is there some bad organisation.

  13. Eunice Durkin, candidate in 1992, never became a Labour MP

  14. The real question Joe is how it became so good for the Tories in the first place. When this seat was formed in 1983, it was thought (probably wrongly) to be an almost safe Labour seat – after all, Batley & Morley had been safe Labour since the war. Then of course these perceptions were defied by Elizabeth Peacock’s win in 1983, and she very skilfully campaigned to hold on narrowly in 1987 & 1992 too. She in fact hardly used the word Conservative in her literature, so that she was seen by independent-minded voters as essentially one of them. It resembled a mirror image of how Bruce George had managed to hold on to the ultra-marginal Walsall S for Labour in the 80s – hardly ever using the word Labour in his local campaigns, and being seen as a very non-partisan figure. Even when she lost in 1997, the swing was way below the national average, and the result was one of Labour’s weakest anywhere. Since then, she has departed the scene, and Mike Wood has been able to restore what perhaps is the natural Labour lead, defying the majority of the swing from Labour to the Conservatives that has happened since 1997, as he has been seen as an excellent constituency MP, and not condemned by most voters for his socialist views. The Tories will be pleased if he does step down, though I think they will find it hard to retake the seat for the foreseeable future.

  15. Thanks Barnaby.
    The Walsall seats are interesting – I do think there is a rather solid perhaps right wing Labour tradition in some of those West Midlands seats which means the Tories just haven’t been able to go the whole way.

    I don’t actually know Batley and Spen – I know Ed Balls’s seat reasonably well and I think Batley is quite near the Osset area.

    As for not campaigning on a party label – good luck to anyone who can win that way – although personally I think it’s bound to come up so better to just demonstrate a good record.
    I think some people think Conservative up front creates a barrier though.

  16. @Neil

    Malik has denied the paper report saying he won’t stand anywhere. He added: “I am not allowing my name to be associated with anything to do with politics.”

  17. and many would say no-one should stand for him.

  18. 2012 local election results for this constituency:

    Labour: 13,856 (53.5%)
    Conservatives: 7,451 (28.8%)
    Liberal Democrats: 3,055 (11.8%)
    Greens: 1,066 (4.1%)
    Independent: 462 (1.8%)

    Total votes: 25,890

    Compared to the 2010 council elections here:

    Labour: +17.4%
    Conservatives: -2.4%
    Liberal Democrats: -6.9%
    BNP: -11.9%
    Greens: +2%

    Swing from Con to Lab: 9.9%

  19. Tends to show that Labour’s local popularity is catching up with the personal popularity of Mike Wood – similar perhaps to what has happened in Brent North where Barry Gardiner seems to have generous coat-tails.

  20. The declaration for this seat was shown by ITN in 1992, though not by the BBC. Does anyone know if this seat counts at Kirklees’ council headquarters by any chance?

  21. Barnaby.. you had better hope it is… as Wood will be just under 80 at the next election…. maybe I am not digging deep enough but it seems there are many more Labour MPs born the 1940s than Tory ones.. does anyone know or has tabulated this?

    Interestingly LibDem MPs who are long in the tooth seem to be giving lots of notice they are going so replacements can get running while there seem to be quite a lot of obvious Labour retirements who seem to be biding their time in “pulling the lever” on their parliamentary careers..

  22. Just under 70 not 80!

  23. yes.. correct.. I need my coffee before my brain starts adding things up..

    but still interested in the age profile issue..

  24. “Interestingly LibDem MPs who are long in the tooth seem to be giving lots of notice they are going so replacements can get running while there seem to be quite a lot of obvious Labour retirements who seem to be biding their time in “pulling the lever” on their parliamentary careers..”

    Well the reason is obvious isn’t it. Labour won’t have any problem holding their seats in 2015, whereas a lot of Lib Dems have a big fight on their hands.

    MPs are encouraged by the leadership to retire late so that favoured candidates can be parachuted in. Sometimes this can get them the reward of a seat in the Lords.

  25. Around 53 Labour current MPs were born in the 40s.

  26. Thanks for that….roughly 20%…if Hemmelig is right then there could be a rush late next year…. will the leadership be able to manage the feeding frenzy as well as it might like…? if they can then it would make a very juicy voting block of support for Ed should he need to fend off interlopers…

  27. It’s not been unusual for MPs already reselected by their local party to announce at the last minute before an election that they’ve changed their mind and will be standing down. Is this always designed to allow party HQ to bring in favoured candidates and take away choice from the local party? Not sure.

    I think it’s correct that since 2010 the average age of Labour MPs is higher than that of Tories and Lib Dems. For this reason alone many retirements would be expected from those remaining from the intakes of 1983, 1987 and 1992.

  28. Of course Alf Broughton was the Labour MP here from a 1949 by election until his death in 1979. He was ill for most of the ’70’s. He offered to go to Westminster to vote in the no confidence motion proposed by Margatet Thatcher. PM Jim Callaghan refused saying he didn’t want on his conscious Broughton’s death if he died on the way. Of course the Government lost by one vote – if Broughton had voted the Government would of survived because the Speaker votes with the Government on tied votes. There is no telling what would of happened if the election was in October 1979 rather than May 1979. Would the winter of discontent had faded enough from voters minds? I doubt it but it is another example of how lucky Thatcher was. Probably more significant was Callaghan not calling an election for autumn 1978.

  29. A party leader has the actuarial realities working against him with a veteran crew on deck.. If Milliband ended up as leader of a minority or coalition government then the last thing he would want is a rash of by-elections..

    if not mistaken there have been quite a few more Labour held seats go to by-election since 2010 in what has been a generally thin time for by-elections anyway..

  30. I wonder if Alf was a relation of JJB?

  31. “PM Jim Callaghan refused saying he didn’t want on his conscious Broughton’s death if he died on the way.”

    Strange, given that the death of at least one Labour MP in 1974-79 was a direct consequence of the behaviour of the government whips (Millie Miller in 1977). Perhaps that lay on Callaghan’s conscience and he didn’t want the same to happen in 1979.

  32. the usual bs about thatcher’s luck. She was the most courageous and tough leader who made her own luck. As a man of the centre, I think you can’t grudge the fact that she was an extraordinary human being, for good or ill.

  33. I think the fact that no major party has had a women leader 38 years after she was first elected in 1975 goes to show how unique she was.

  34. Joe – I don’t think so, not even by marriage. No doubt the man himself will confirm or deny.
    I have, so far as I am aware, no relatives who have ever reached Parliament. I did however have a cousin who was knighted for services to municipal Labour Party politics in Manchester.

  35. @HH – I’ll have to take your word about Millie Miller. I don’t know anything about her.

    @Peter Crawford – I’ve never been called a man of the centre. However I didn’t agree with most things she did – some of the trade union reform was sensible and long overdue, I can’t think of anything else.

    I happen to think that Thatcher was lucky – even the Economist said this after she died. Everyone who gets right to the top is both lucky and extremely talented. If you look back most post-war PMs have been lucky to get there: Blair because Smith died; Major because when Thatcher was finally pushed he was the one that was the “Thatcherite” candidate – she had many favourites to take over from her over the years and there were many times she could have gone and it wouldn’t of been Major succeeding her. If she’d gone over Westland in 1986 it wouldn’t of been Major taking over; Wilson fought the Tories when they had a terrible economy to defend in 1964 and also was only leader because Gaitskell died; Home wouldn’t of been PM without the law changing to allow Peers to give up their seat in the House of Lords a few weeks before MacMillan resigned – it was inconceivable that someone from the Lords be PM. Plus he was lucky that MacMillan thought he had cancer and didn’t have long left; MacMillan wouldn’t of been PM without Eden messing up over Suez.

    The right tend to think that all you need is hard work and some intelligence to get to the top. In fact these things are only the minor factors that determines success – luck if by far the biggest factor. Either luck because events go your way or lucky in terms of what family you’re born into!

  36. “@HH – I’ll have to take your word about Millie Miller. I don’t know anything about her.”

    Then I shall enlighten you. Miller was diagnosed with cancer but was told by the whips that she would have to postpone her surgery until the summer recess. By the time of the recess the cancer had become inoperable and she died in the autumn.

    Joe Ashton, a Labour whip at the time, has said that he felt a collective responsibility for Miller’s death which is one of the biggest regrets of his career.

  37. “Everyone who gets right to the top is both lucky and extremely talented.”

    Of course, by definition that is absolutely true.

    Sorry Peter Crawford, you are an idiot and you should apologise to BigD for your uncalled for rudeness.

    The undeniable fact that Margaret Thatcher was a very lucky leader does not mean that she wasn’t also courageous and tough.

  38. Thank you HH.

    I wonder whether you’d agree though that there’s a fine line between courage and recklessness? I think Thatcher was courageous regarding the Falklands but I think some military people thought she was reckless risking the whole fleet. It would of only taken the French to sell the Argentinians more exocert missiles and the whole thing would of been a disaster.

    Conversely I think she was less courageous/reckless taking on the miners. She skilfully picked her timing perfectly, after the General Election and when stock piles of coal were high. She did of course back down when the miners threatened to go on strike in 1981.

  39. Yes I think there is a lot in what you say. At the time, very many people regarded the Falklands operation as reckless, including a substantial number of Conservatives. The success of the operation silenced such concerns….had the operation gone wrong, Thatcher would most certainly have had to resign. Not only was she risking the whole fleet, she was risking her own position as well. It was both courageous and reckless.

    One way in which Thatcher was most lucky was in her enemies. Scargill’s actions in calling a strike at the wrong time, refusing to hold a national ballot and publicly claiming that he was trying to bring down the government doomed the strike before it even began. I grew up in a mining village and was 8 in the miners strike, unfortunately I remember it very well.

  40. Following my last post I have been contemplating volatility. More work needs to be done before I have an index I am satisfied with, but preliminary results (limited to primarily Labour-Conservative contests where there is a reasonable continuity of boundaries between 1979 and 2010) gives the following list of the least volatile constituencies:

    Batley & Spen
    Bury North
    Westminster North
    Manchester Wythenshawe
    Leeds NE
    Leeds NW

    A clear trend in West Yorkshire & Greater Manchester.

  41. Possibly they’re places where different demopolitical effects cancel out.

    Increasing Asian population being countered by an increasing exurban commuter population.

    A leftward drift among the public sector middle class being countered by a rightward drift among private sector working class.

    Westminster North is perhaps a place which has always been divided into two different voting blocks with few swing voters.

  42. I would have thought Ipswich very volatile and Leeds NW even more so – given that it’s been held by all three parties since the war

    I would argue though that Richard’s point about a leftward drift among the public sector middle class being countered by a rightward drift among private sector working class is the most significant change in voting behaviour over the last couple of decades – borne out by the last election where the Tories got far bigger swings in working class seats than middle class ones

  43. Tim’s right about Ipswich. Its behaviour can be extremely unorthodox, though it had a more conformist period between 1997 & 2005 inclusive. It swung to the Tories by quite a bit above the national average in 2010.

  44. Agree on Ipswich. My index needs more work to deal with swings against the trend.

  45. Interesting fact: the current Tory majority in Ipswich is the highest since 1935.

  46. Wood confirms retirement now

  47. I still don’t think the Tories will win this unless we have a decent local candidate, even then its going to be a push.

  48. Candidate is almost by-the-by – the Asian population is 20%, almost all muslim, and likely to be higher by 2015. Very unlikely we’ll see another Tory MP here. My sense that it the muslim vote in the north is even more resolutely Labour than in London.

  49. Maybe the “cheap Labour” in the seat description could be changed…

  50. Not surprising given his age. I’ve read that he’s meant to be a good local MP and probably won fans (not Bob types though) for rebelling a lot during the Labour years.

    Demographically this is certainly trending Labour’s way.

    Janice Small (now Atkinson) was the Tory candidate here in 2010 but has since defected to UKIP. Her Twitter account says that she’s involved with the party’s welfare policies. Think she is also an MEP candidate for the South East this year.

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