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Batley and Spen: Labour's Kim Leadbeater wins by-election
2 July 2021, 05:29 | Updated: 2 July 2021, 08:39
The sister of murdered Jo Cox has become the new MP in Batley and Spen as Labour held the seat with a narrow margin over the Conservatives.
Kim Leadbeater won with a majority of just 323 votes staving off a crisis for Sir Keir Starmer in a by-election that saw fractious and divisive campaigning.
George Galloway also took over 8,000 votes for the Workers Party.
Ms Leadbeater thanked the police after her victory for the protection she had been given amid allegations of intimidation during campaigning. She remarked: 'Sadly I needed them more than ever.'
"I'm absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and they've voted for hope."
She also thanked her family saying "without them I could not have got through the last five years nevermind the last five weeks."
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Batley and Spen by-election was "fantastic result for the brilliant and brave" Kim Leadbeater.
"Kim ran a positive campaign of hope, in the face of division," he said.
"She will be an outstanding Labour MP for Batley and Spen."
Ms Leadbeater secured the seat with 13,296 (35.27%) to the Tories' Ryan Stephenson's (C) 12,973 (34.42%).
The seat previously held by Kim's sister Jo Cox, who was murdered in the constituency in 2016.
Turnout for the by-election was 47.6%, with some 37,786 verified ballots cast out of a total electorate of 79,373, Kirklees Council said.
George Galloway, who came third in the contest, said he would apply to have the result set aside by the courts.
Speaking outside the count, he said his election effort had been damaged by a "false statement" that he had laughed while Labour's Kim Leadbeater was abused on the campaign trail.
"The whole election campaign was dominated by lazy and false tropes about our campaign, about the thousands of people that voted for us, about their motives for doing so, in a way which defamed them as much as it defamed me," he said.
"So on multiple grounds we will apply to the courts for this election result to be set aside."
Brendan Cox, the widower of Jo Cox, the Batley and Spen MP who was murdered in Batley by a far-right extremist in June 2016 during the EU referendum campaign, tweeted: "We are all incredibly proud of Kim Leadbeater today and Jo would have been too.
"While the result between the two main parties was close the extremists & haters were left trailing. The people of Batley & Spen have voted for decency and positivity once again."
Labour MP Jess Phillips, a close friend of Jo Cox, tweeted: "The emotional labour done by @kimleadbeater over the last few weeks is unimaginable. Hope and love can win but it is harder and takes considerably more work than hate which any fool can do."