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”
  1. She probably had quite a good chance of winning prior to that, in this Brexity constituency, even with narrowing polls nationally.

    But not any more.

  2. Interesting that the area largely voted to Leave, only days after Cox’s death. Her husband noted in a recent interview that several of Jo’s relatives also voted that way, so he doesn’t hold the campaign responsible for the incident.

    As to all the discussion about “democracy” and not standing other candidates in the BE – well, you didn’t have to wait long and you’ve now had it. I remember Electoral Calculus predicting this as a Con gain during early stages of the campaign. Brabin got quite a good lead last week in the final result.

    I also noted when the murder happened that Birstall was a Conservative council ward. (Just an observation, no inference implied.)

  3. Tracy Brabin won today the selecton to be Labour candidate in West Yorkshire mayoral election. She said that she won’t keep both posititons if elected.

  4. unsurprising she won the backing of most the trade unions, good result for her main competitor to get 40% without the same machine behind them but Tracey will be happy with a majority

    Pleased to see she will do it full time, I really wish Dan Jarvis would do the same

  5. Hinchcliffe had Unison and Usdaw. So the top 4 unions split evenly. However Brabin had the top one (Unite along with GMB and many small ones).

    In the 2019 GE West Yorkshire voted Lab 46% Con. 39.7%.
    In current landscape, Labour should win it, even if not by the landslides it would have got in the past.

  6. Having Unison would have been a boost in terms of campaigning and campaign spending. In all Brabin had 6 unions plus the Coop while her main opposition had 3 unions. The most influencial in terms of members in somewhere like West Yorkshire; Unison, Unite, GMB, Usdaw and CWU were pretty evenly split leaning toward Brabin.

    It’s not impossible to invision Labour winning without a runoff though Dan Jarvis getting less than a majority in Sheffield city region mayoralty there might be a protest vote that supresses the main parties totals

  7. For me the most interesting aspect of the Brabin candidature is the possibility of a by election here.

    Labour’s choice, I suspect, will be sending a signal of how the leadership want to be seen. It might be a previous MP who left Labour under Corbyn.

  8. Problem with that is it’s the CLP that selects the prospective parliamentary candidate. Sure there is a shortlist and the leadership could try and make sure their preferred candidate is on it but there is no guarantee that works.

    This year member in the West of England selected their candidate for Mayor of the region. The CLPs nominated various candidates before the shortlisting took place and the preferred candidate of CLPs wasn’t on it. This was a clear attempt to ensure their second favourite who was the leaderships preferred favourite would be selected. Just to make it even more likely the leadership would get their candidate they only shortlisted one other candidate with the least support amongst CLPs. How could the leaderships preferred candidate lose.

    What happened though was in disgust most members didn’t vote. Only about 3,000 did I think which is less than the total of votes the second candidate got in West Yorkshire ballot bare in mind West of England has one of Labour’s largest CLPs in the country. So the candidate that neither the leadership wanted nor the CLPs wanted won.

    Another issue is parachuting candidates is deeply unpopular. Peter Law is a name that comes to mind in a by election where Labour tried to parachute someone in, Labour went down to devastating defeat. Labour try to avoid parachuting now. The last three Labour MPs elected in by elections; Jim McMahon, Allin-Khan and Lisa Forbes were all local candidates.

    Lastly a former ex-Labour MP may be no friend to Starmer. Most of them are either old Labour right like Ian Austin or were members of progress like Umunna. Moderates settled on Starmer for leader because their own candidate dropped out but that doesn’t mean they won’t hang him out to dry first chance they get.

  9. I highly doubt that Labour would bring back an old MP under such a circumstance. By-elections have a lot of focus, which is why local candidates are chosen to replace incumbents, certainly for Labour. Why on earth would Starmer choose a candidate who stood against the party or endorsed a rival just over twelve months ago? Far more likely it will be someone local, to the region if not the CLP.

  10. Yeah you’re both probably right.

    But wouldnt be shocked if Flint or Berger were offered it. Starmer has already said Lab might look at changing the Party rules to.allow someone to be a PPC even though standing against the Party in a previous election.

    The majority is 3,600 & on current polling Flint or Berger should hold. In any case does it really matter if Lab lose? I mean in terms of seat totals / Con majority?

  11. Yes Starmer has said this but I think that was more conciliatory than anything else. I can’t see Berger having anything to do with a seat in West Yorkshire. But Caroline Flint might, I think it more likely someone like Paula Sherriff though given Dewsbury is basically next door to Batley. Hardly parachuting when they’re so close

  12. Losing a seat numerically wouldn’t make much of difference but it would be more damaging to lose the seat than it would to play it safe and just choose a local candidate over a big name.

  13. Turns out Paula is undergoing cancer treatment, she stood for Mayor of West Yorkshire too but withdrew because of it. Mary Creagh is probably the next local former MP that might seek the nomination. As MP for Wakefield she represented another neighbouring constituency to Batley

  14. Berger would send a massive signal to “the Trots” and would ensure several more thousand of them tearing up their membership cards.

  15. Berger is probably the only former ex Labour MP who might be a Starmer ally, unlike the rest she’s the only one who backed the soft left candidate in 2015.

    As it though she has no connection to Batley and as far as I’m aware still a Lib Dem. Is it really more important that members leave at her candidacy than Labour win a by election? It might send a message but if it’s Labour are okay with losing by elections as long as members leave is that a message you want.

  16. Why wouldn’t she win it? I don’t see any reason why the voters in Batley wouldn’t back her. But I agree it’s more unlikely than likely that she’ll somehow be manoevered in as the PPC.

  17. Because the perochial nature of the voter, she may well win but the ‘she’s not one of ours’ runs deep in the electorate particularly at a by election.

    I’m reminded of Patrick Gordon Walker a moderate who lost Smethwick thanks to a fairly nasty campaign where Tory leaflets claimed voting Labour would mean having a coloured for a neighbour. Incensed by this Harold Wilson made Gordom Walker Foreign Secretary despite not holding any office and in a by election Gordon Walker was picked to be Labour’s candidate.

    This backfired though with Labour look losing to the Liberals. Gordon Walker was sacked as Foreign Sec after that and never returned to front line politics as far as im aware

  18. Just a quick amendment PGW did return to cabinet until 68 after that he fades from politics

  19. T.y…a fascinating bit of party political history. I wonder if he did any work as Foreign Secretary between mid Oct1964 and the by election (forced by Wilson to accommodate Gordon Walker) three months later? The whole thing is quite undemocratic.

  20. @Mark Felt
    The majority is 3,600 & on current polling Flint or Berger should hold. In any case does it really matter if Lab lose? I mean in terms of seat totals / Con majority?

    December 19th, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    Does it matter numerically? No. Symbolically, it matters hugely. Labour losing Copeland at the BE was the first time a governing party had gained a seat at a BE since 1982. Labour did lose the Greenwich BE in 1987, but that was to the SDP (that’s just off the top of my head). If Labour can’t hang on to a seat like Batley and Spen at a BE, with a more moderate leader than Corbyn, after over ten years of Tory government, they’re in deep trouble.

    Starmer wouldn’t want to piss off the left of the party by having an anti-Corbyn PPC like Flint back. Creagh also falls into this category. And after what Berger went through, I cannot imagine her coming back to Labour just months after the EHRC findings.

    John Grogan lost in Keighley, which is also in West Yorkshire, and he’s a bit less controversial if they were bringing someone back. Thelma Walker in Colne Valley has actually left the party. That’s it for Labour MPs in West Yorkshire who lost their seats.

  21. The selection would be the interesting part. A Batley & Spen by-election should be unloseable for Labour.

    The other constituency where we might see a by-election after May next year is Moray, as Douglas Ross will certainly face pressure to vacate his Westminster seat after being elected to the Scottish Parliament (I’m assuming on the Highlands & Islands list) next spring. To be honest, I’m doubtful the Tories would have any more chance of winning in Moray than they would in Batley, given the current political weather.

  22. I understand Lab / Brabin is expected to win the W Yorkshire comfortably. So we will very likely have the first by election of the new parliament here.

  23. I’d have thought Labour would win the West Yorks mayoralty.

    Labour seem more concerned about falling short in Tees Valley snd West Midlands.

  24. If I were a Labour member I’d be concerned that the government has had a garbage year and is still ahead. It now looks like the timetabling might be good for the Tories, if by May most over-fifties have been vaccinated and most of the country is in tier 2, that could get give them a notable polling bump.

    Tees Valley and West Midlands were areas the Tories barely sneaked by 1% or so, at the height of a blue wave. If they stay blue then Sir Keir will face questions about his leadership from more than the usual suspects because with the horror this country has suffered over the last twelve months it shouldn’t even be close. (Sir Keir could reasonably argue, I suppose, that the national emergency has meant he’s not been able to talk about the things a Labour leader would rather talk about.)

  25. PollTroll has basically laid the arguments in the guardian article on Labour’s worries in May. I think there is a degree of expectation management. Labour say they expect to lose seats so gaining seats will be seen as more of an achievement. 2017 local elections were bad. Labour were 11 points behind and are level pegging now. They should gain most if not all the seats they lost in 2017.

    However, the delayed 2020 elections are from a better than expected 2016 where Labour did lose seats but Labour lost votes in all the right places if that makes sense. Despite Labour’s 2012 lead of 7 points falling to one point Labour held on to razer thin majorities in Harlow, Chorley, Hastings, etc. and Labour don’t even have a lead now. But that might change. Polling leads don’t equate to local elections. Tories actually led the polls in May 2016 despite Labour getting most votes in the May elections.

    It could be a weird night. Talking to my colleagues at work, i get the impression they don’t find Starmer very convincing. The thing I’ve heard from a couple of people is that he needs to come up with his own ideas. I don’t think most of them will vote in May tbh but if they did I suspect most would vote for someone else. Partly because there is locally an anti Labour feeling

  26. Yeah, it’s funny seeing the “any competent leader would be twenty points ahead” meme reversed, with the left-wingers now throwing it at the centrists. I’m reminded of Stephen Bush’s observation that every faction within the Labour Party will eventually adopt every position on issues which divide the Labour movement.

  27. The word irony comes to mind

    I’m sure that isn’t limited to the Labour Party. The 2nd referendum petition was set up by a friend of mine who is a brexitier who clearly wanted another vote if leave lost

  28. PT
    “Tees Valley and West Midlands were areas the Tories barely sneaked by 1% or so, at the height of a blue wave. If they stay blue then Sir Keir will face questions about his leadership from more than the usual suspects because with the horror this country has suffered over the last twelve months it shouldn’t even be close.”

    The West Midlands, even discounting Birmingham, shouldn’t be difficult to turn red, but Andy Street may have some incumbency ‘bounce’? Tees Valley could be an area that is trending away from Labour, unrelated to anything Starmer does or says.

    It’s only just over a year since Labour had their worst result since 1935 – it’s unrealistic to expect them to now be 20 points ahead. However, the last poll I’ve seen has Labour four points ahead, although most recent ones give the Tories a small lead. Starmer has at least made it tighter between the two parties on polling.

  29. I think the point PT is making is that it amusing as a neutral observer it’s entertaining to see the ’20 points ahead’ thrown back at people who used it themselves by people who had it thrown at them.

    Yes there’s always context. People can always say ‘it’s unrealistic to expect Labour to be 20 points ahead’. Partly that’s what makes it more entertaining. To see people who for the last 5 years were saying ‘it’s unrealistic for Labour to be 20 points ahead’ now saying ‘Labour should be 20 points ahead’ and people who for the last 5 years were saying ‘Labour should be 20 points ahead’ now saying ‘it’s unreasonable for Labour to be 20 points ahead’ is amusing.

    The guardian article points out that Labour haven’t really gained on the Tories. Rather the Tories vote has collapsed. It isn’t obvious in headline voting intentions but if you look at past voting intention around 70% of 2019 Tory voters are staying Tory, 75% of 2019 Labour voters are staying Labour, 60% of 2019 Lib Dems are staying Lib Dem. The biggest winners from Tory disaffection is ‘don’t know’. Voters Labour have gained are mostly Lib Dems. 25% of 2019 Lib Dems are now Labour compared to 4% of 2019 Tories

  30. Would help if you linked to this Guardian article!

    The whole “20 points ahead” thing can be a bit of an extreme answer, I think. Polling leads like that aren’t really the norm, being more rare than common, I’d say. Such assumptions also start from a place of thinking that the average British voter thinks the government has “made a hash” in handling the pandemic. Maybe they have, but it’s an event beyond the government’s control, so I think many are prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s also assuming that politics is a binary choice – as if a voter will go for haddock (Labour) if there’s no cod (Tories) available in the fish and chip shop. Four years of Corbyn’s leadership will have changed public perceptions of Labour, which were already poor to begin with.

  31. Presumably this

    Which is indeed interesting, especially the projection that the Tories could win Tees Valley in the first round on 66%. Things like that could simply be part of a long-term trend.

  32. Yes that’s the article.

    Tbh I’m not all that convinced that Corbyns leadership has affected people’s impression on the Labour Party as much as tge chattering classes would have us believe. I’m not saying its had no affect. Polling shows it has but when I was talking politics with my boss and I’d mentioned Corbyn, he said ‘oh I’d forgotten Jeremy Corbyn existed’ and I’d say he was generally more engaged than majority of my colleagues. I’ll never forget a colleague of mine asking me ‘whose this James Corbyn’. I think we often project our own understanding onto other people and it comes as a surprise when someone asks you whose James Corbyn

  33. Yes, that’s true. I had an ardent remainer friend who didn’t know who Keir Starmer was only a year or two before he became leader. So the public at large don’t have great name recognition with senior politicians.

  34. I remember a recent pub quiz question about a year ago asking what Keir Starmer’s former job was, which was obviously director of public prosecutions

    I was the only person who knew the answer

    Most people find politics inherently boring – and think those that are into it are even more so

  35. I did french for a year in 2019 in a pop quiz i was the only one to know Eduard Philipe (sorry about spelling) was PM. Most thought it was Macron. I know we aren’t French but we were studying it, it’s not need to know but still…

  36. I think an interest in politics is a foreign concept to many. But then, I find football (and all sports) completely and utterly boring.

    In Radio 4’s Analysis this week they were discussing the link between personality and politics. Isabel Hardman was on as author of ‘Why We Get the Wrong Politicians’. She describes politics as an ‘addictive pursuit’ in relation to those who go into it.

  37. This wide apathy is worth bearing in mind the next time you hear the narrative that we live in an era of intense polarisation and outrage. The outrage narrative is largely driven by a class of journalists who do genuinely spend much of their time in a small and very volatile online bubble.

    David Cameron had it right when he observed that “Twitter is not Britain”. (Though of course his own most celebrated contribution to the platform – “chaos with Ed Miliband” – couldn’t have been wronger.)

  38. I rather liked his observation that Twitter includes a lot of twats!

    I agree with your first comment to an extent – a lot of people don’t care about politics, but the people who do care tend to care passionately.

  39. Batley seems like the most likely by-election caused by Mayoral hopefuls.

    Although there are also potential ones arising in Airdrie; Birmingham Hodge Hill.

    Does anyone know whether the Rutherglen MP was ever prosecuted? I recall it being pending.

  40. In this seat, the Locals were:
    Cons 39.9%
    Lab 39.6%

  41. No doubt this will be another headache for Labour. Few points though – the Tory vote share here didn’t actually increase in 2019 (it fell by 2.8%), it’s more that Labour’s vote share fell share more sharply hence the small majority. There was also a prominent independent candidate from a party called the Heavy Wollen District Independents who won 12.4% of the vote. Brabin’s vote share fell by a similar proportion, suggesting her lost voters went their way. Will be interesting to see where that vote goes in a BE, unless that party stands again.

    Also Batley & Spen is a bit different to Hartlepool. The seat was created in 1983 and was Tory throughout the Thatcher and Major years albeit on slim majorities. It’s electorally mixed with both Labour and Tory leaning areas.

    Nonetheless it’ll be another blow for Labour if they can’t hold on here.

  42. So, the biggest difference between Hartlepool and Batley, demographically speaking, is that Hartlepool is one of the whitest places in Britain while Batley & Spen has a sizeable Pakistani Muslim community – possibly part of why it has stayed in the red column while many similar seats have not.

  43. In a nutshell, yes. And as you allude to, Muslims (Pakistani or otherwise) are a much more reliable voting bloc for Labour than whites. Although I wonder how turnout compares for Muslims and the white working-class.

  44. I understand a lot of muslims were upset by KS decision not to attend an iftar he was invited to and many didn’t vote in these elections

  45. Interesting. Turnout was just 36.52%. Only the Reform UK candidate appears to be from a Muslim background, based on his name. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Tories pick a Muslim PPC for the by-election. They seem to have no trouble finding them in heavily Muslim areas. I don’t think any of the Muslim Tory MPs represent areas with a large Muslim population though. I noticed on another comment page here, someone commented that Muslims don’t believe in voting/taking part in elections. Not sure where that came from, I don’t think it’s true.

  46. I doubt the Tories would select a Muslim PPC here. They’re only 10% of voters and they vote Labour.

    The Heavy Woollen Inds are local populists so whether they stand will decide the outcome. They campaigned against “non-stun slaughter”, for fireworks on Nov 5th etc. They are run by ex-UKIP activists and gained cllrs from Labour a couple of years ago.

  47. TM – only some fundamentalist Muslims don’t vote eg the ones who protested Oonagh King.

    Obviously some religious Islamic adherents do as they voted for Galloway twice and the Islamic Party stood in Blackburn.

  48. Thanks for clarifying. I asked an ex-Muslim friend about that assertion when I read it, and he was adamant it wasn’t true. It was possibly on the Birmingham Yardley thread.

    So yes, maybe it’s the ultra-observant Muslims who don’t vote. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t vote either. Not sure if this applies to other religious communities.

  49. Yes, JWs and Christian Brethren don’t vote.

    But Mormons and all others do.

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