Big-vision domestic policies and a unified party could enable him to fend off any more leadership challenges
A Tory triumph in Batley and Spen would have rewarded scandal, nepotism and a bungled pandemic. Labour’s success, then, is a moment to cheer in bleak times. Yet in the wave of triumph expressed by Keir Starmer’s cheerleaders, it may be unpopular to speak honestly, but the truth should be spoken even if it is shouted down. Starmer has won some much-needed breathing space to turn his leadership around, because frankly Labour is in a terrible mess.
Labour owes its victory to a rightly popular candidate, a highly effective ground campaign, revulsion at George Galloway and the Matt Hancock scandal. Kim Leadbeater’s local roots and campaigning zeal – often leaving her team exhausted as she leaped from doorstep to doorstep – fused with widespread sympathy after she was aggressively berated in the street by Shakeel Afsar, who led protests against LGBTQ-inclusive education in Birmingham. Labour’s get-out-the-vote operation remains second to none thanks to the party’s membership. And Galloway – a toxic demagogue who campaigned alongside Nigel Farage and voted Tory earlier this year – succeeded both in eating into the party’s Muslim vote, and driving other residents into Labour’s camp in opposition. Fury at Hancock’s flouting of the very social distancing rules he championed mobilised voters across the political divide. The victory owes little to Starmer, who was largely absent from the campaign.