Here are some of the key developments from the day:

  • Kim Leadbeater has narrowly won the Batley and Spen byelection for Labour, defeating her Conservative rival by just 323 votes.
  • Keir Starmer welcomed the “fantastic” victory for Labour’s “positive campaign of hope” and later said: “Labour is coming home.”
  • In her victory speech, Kim Leadbeater made a point of thanking the police, whom she said “sadly, I have needed more than ever over the last few weeks”. This was a reference to the violence and intimidation that has marked what has been a particularly unpleasant byelection.
  • George Galloway claimed outside the count that his campaign had been derailed by a false claim made about him and that he would be going to court to try to get the result overturned.
  • Brendan Cox, husband of Jo Cox, has tweeted his thanks to Conservative Batley and Spen candidate Ryan Stephenson for “fighting the campaign on the issues and not pandering to divisions”.
  • Public anger at Matt Hancock’s breach of social distancing rules with an aide with whom he had started an affair was a factor in the Conservative party’s “disappointing” failure to win the Batley and Spen byelection, the party’s co-chair has conceded.
  • A man has been charged with common assault after England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, was accosted in a central London park.
  • Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that Scotland’s contact tracing system Test and Protect is “coping well” despite growing concerns that it is struggling with the recent surge in coronavirus cases.
  • German chancellor Angela Merkel has said double-jabbed Britons should be able to have a holiday in Europe without quarantine in the “foreseeable future”, following her opposition over the Delta variant.


Labour “is coming home” after the party narrowly held on to Batley and Spen in a sometimes brutal byelection, Keir Starmer has said, arguing that voters were starting to see through the government’s “politics of misinformation”.

“It is a start. Labour is back. Labour is coming home,” the party leader told cheering activists in the West Yorkshire constituency, standing next to Kim Leadbeater, who won the seat over the Conservatives by just 323 votes.

Leadbeater, the sister of Jo Cox, who represented the seat from 2015 until her murder by a far-right extremist in 2016, took 13,296 votes, against 12,973 for the Tory candidate, Ryan Stephenson

George Galloway, who stood under the banner of his Workers Party of Britain with the explicit aim of splitting the Labour vote and destabilising Starmer’s leadership, came third with 8,264 votes.

Speaking to activists and the media in the constituency, Starmer condemned the abuse Leadbeater had faced during the campaign, saying others had “poisoned it with hatred, division, disinformation, lies, harassment, threats and intimidation”.

While much of his message was aimed at Galloway, Starmer condemned the Conservatives for believing “they could sit back, say nothing about harassment, and walk in. And they were wrong about that.”

Speaking to Sky News, Starmer sought to more explicitly link a “victory of hope over division and decency over hatred” to the government, saying a number of Tory voters had switched to Labour.

Asked if the result was affected by the resignation of Matt Hancock for breaching Covid rules during an affair with an aide, Starmer said: “I think people are getting fed up with the politics of misinformation, half-truths, untruths and division.”

Read more from my colleagues Maya Wolfe-Robinson, Peter Walker and Heather Stewart:

“I’ve got a bloody long list here, lads,” said Kim Leadbeater as she bounded away from a voter in the early days of the Batley and Spen byelection campaign.

On this occasion, parking was the issue that Leadbeater had added to her little notebook of voters’ complaints. As a local resident, she quickly grasped the issues often overlooked in the national narrative.

Leadbeater could not have foreseen, however, that the contest would soon turn from parking and potholes to Palestine, or that uniformed police would be required for protection in her home town.

Her election as MP for Batley and Spen on Friday morning followed one of the most divisive byelection campaigns for decades. There were homophobic slurs, dirty tricks, fake leaflets, violence. And in the middle of this ugly cacophony stood a newcomer to politics whose sister was murdered in this constituency just five years ago.

Read the full profile here:

Johnson has said sporting events are being opened up in a “very careful and controlled manner” after Merkel expressed concern about the numbers attending Euro 2020 matches at Wembley.

Johnson said:

The crucial point is that here in the UK we have now built up a very considerable wall of immunity by our vaccination programme.

In the UK almost 85% have had a first dose and more than 63% have had two jabs. Since you get more than 80% protection from one dose and 93% protection from two doses there is a very great degree of resistance to (the) virus in the UK population.

He said there had been “a big change” in the relationship between the numbers of cases and the numbers of serious illnesses and deaths since the start of the vaccination programme.

He said:

I want to stress that we have been very cautious at every stage. But that’s why I think it’s been effective and it’s why it’s been an irreversible road map (out of lockdown).

Merkel has expressed “grave concern” at the numbers of fans being admitted to the Euro 2020 matches at Wembley.

The German chancellor said she raised the issue with Boris Johnson during their talks at Chequers.

She said:

I say this with grave concern. I have also said this to the Prime Minister,” she told a joint news conference.

We in Germany, as you know, have less people attend games in the Munich stadium but the British Government will obviously take its own decision.

But I am very much concerned whether it is not a bit too much.

Johnson suggested that the post-Brexit dispute over chilled meats heading to Northern Ireland from Great Britain would improve following a meeting with the German chancellor.

The prime minister said:

Imagine if bratwurst could not be moved from Dortmund to Dusseldorf because of the jurisdiction of an international court – you’d think it was absolutely extraordinary. So we have to sort it out.

I’m sure, as Angela says, with goodwill and with patience we can sort it out.

Hopefully, as we said at our bilateral, when it comes to chilled meats the wurst is behind us, as I think Angela said, or maybe I said that.


Merkel says the Delta variant of Covid-19 is “increasing very rapidly” in Germany.

On quarantine-free travel, she said:

We think that in a foreseeable future those who have received double jabs will then according to our classification … be able to travel again without going into quarantine.

Johnson says after listening to Merkel that “progress is being made” on quarantine-free travel but points to “tough restrictions” that UK has on people coming from Germany presently, which he says is “quite right”.

Merkel concerned about the number of fans at Euros games.

She said:

We in Germany as you know, decided to have less people attend games in the Munich stadium but the British government obviously will take his own decision, but I’m very much concerned whether it’s not a bit too much.


The German chancellor talked about “width” of the UK and Germany’s cooperation and relationship, with a treaty and a yearly meeting of the two country’s cabinets.

She said:

I wish for us to cooperate in many areas, in energy, technology, culture.

Merkel said she hopes “the contacts among young people” between both countries “can be revived”.

“That is a danger… that it falls by the wayside” after the UK’s departure from Erasmus following Brexit.

Johnson says he is ‘very confident’ that the EU will accept AZ jabs from Serum Institute in India under the vaccine passport scheme.

He said:

I see no reason at all why those MHRA approved vaccines should not be recognised as part of the vaccine passports, I am confident that will not prove to be a problem.

Here’s the full story on this issue:

Merkel has said Germany and the UK have agreed to establish regular inter-governmental consultations.

Following talks with Johnson at Chequers, she said Germany wanted to underpin it with a new cooperation treaty.

She said:

It is, now that Britain has left the European Union, a good opportunity to open a new chapter in our relationship,” she told a joint press conference.

She said she believes that “pragmatic solutions” can be found on the issue of the Northern Ireland protocol so that both the integrity of the single market is maintained and “acceptable solutions” are created.

“I think I’m optimistic that this can happen,” she said.


Johnson was asked about the byelection result and how the campaign was run.

He said:

We fought an incredibly positive campaign and did very well to reduce a long standing Labour majority, several decades old, to 323, with... the third biggest swing in favour of the government since the war.


Boris Johnson joked with Angela Merkel that Germany had broken with its tradition of beating England in football tournaments.

Noting the German chancellor’s 22 visits to the UK during her time in power, the prime minister told a press conference following their meeting at Chequers:

In the course of that time some things have changed beyond recognition but for much of your tenure it was certainly a tradition, Angela, for England to lose to Germany in international football tournaments.

I’m obviously grateful to you for breaking with that tradition, just for once.

On Germany’s defeat in Euro 2020, she replied:

Obviously this was not a voluntary offer on my side to create the right mood for this visit but I have to accept it.

You deserved it but we were a little bit sad but now the best of luck to the British team.


Johnson-Merkel press conference

Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel are now giving a press conference at Chequers.


After much publicity earlier in the week about the 2,000 football-related infections identified by contact tracers, Nicola Sturgeon also made the point that football, and people gathering to watch the Euros in particular, is not the only cause of the recent spike in Covid cases, and said it was wrong to suggest that football fans were to blame.

Clinical director Jason Leitch said that Public Health Scotland and Public Health England “talk every day” and were discussing the potential leakage of virus in both directions from the Scotland-England match at Wembley.

He said:

There hasn’t been a similar huge spike around those London cases [in England]. Remember the travellers to Wembley throwing on will be from a broad, geography, not just from London … The Euro 2020 tag has begun to tail off in our Test and Protect interviews, because we do think it was principally around that one big match.

But Leitch added “football is not the only problem here”.

The problem is generalised community transmission so all of us, football fans or not, have to follow the rules.


Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that Scotland’s contact tracing system Test and Protect is “coping well” despite growing concerns that it is struggling with the recent surge in coronavirus cases. She said that it was inevitable with rising case rates that Test and Protect would be under more pressure, but said it was still meeting the WHO target of dealing with 80% of cases within 72 hours.

Walk-in vaccination centres are opening across Scotland from Monday as Scottish Labour warned that the vaccine roll out is stalling. According to the latest rolling weekly average vaccination rate, the weekly rate fell by over a third from 343,968 at the start of June to 212,140 on 1 July.

Announcing that more than 50% of the entire population has been double vaccinated, Sturgeon insisted that the programme was not slowing down, but that factors including supply issues earlier in the roll-out and which vaccines could be given to under 30s influenced how many people were being called.

She also urged the public to download Test and Protect app, test themselves regularly and alert their close contacts themselves if they test positive.

Keir Starmer has said he does not think the recent coverage of Matt Hancock’s behaviour played a huge role in Labour’s narrow victory in the Batley and Spen byelection, while also condemning what he called “the half truths and unruths” of Boris Johnson.

In a phone briefing with journalists from the constituency, the Labour leader was asked about the impact of voters of the health secretary’s resignation.

Starmer said:

I don’t think that it played a huge part. What I’ve been struck by, walking round the streets of Batley and Spen with Kim is just how positive she is, and how many people who would normally vote for other parties respect her for the work that she’s done through the Jo Cox Foundation. Contrast Kim with the prime minister, who basks in the half truths and untruths.

Asked about his own leadership, Starmer said the easing of Covid restriction means “the space finally opens up for me to make the argument about the future”, which he would do over the summer.

But he accepted the win did not hide the wider issues faced by Labour:

It doesn’t gloss over the problems. What we saw here was that those core values that Kim embodies, that are the values of the Labour party, in the end bring people together and are very persuasive.

The Mirror’s Rachel Wearmouth has spoken to the parents of Jo Cox and Kim Leadbeater.

Their mother Jean said Jo “would have been so proud” of her sister’s election win.

Kim Leadbeater’s mam and dad, Jean and Gordon.

“Jo would have been so proud,” says Jean

— Rachel Wearmouth (@REWearmouth) July 2, 2021

Angela Merkel has arrived at Chequers, Boris Johnson’s country residence, for a bilateral meeting with the prime minister as part of her final UK visit before stepping down later this year.

Johnson semi-jogged out of the entrance to the Buckinghamshire estate just as the German chancellor’s convoy crunched up the gravel driveway, PA news reports.

BRITAIN-GERMANY-DIPLOMACYBritain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her arrival at Chequers, Buckinghamshire on July 2, 2021. - Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosts Merkel at his Chequers country residence during her 22nd and last official visit to Britain before she steps down as chancellor later this year. (Photo by David Rose / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DAVID ROSE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson welcomes Angela Merkel on her arrival at Chequers, Buckinghamshire. Photograph: David Rose/AFP/Getty Images

The pair, both wearing blue, bumped elbows and fists and went inside for talks before a televised press conference later.


Starmer said Leadbeater had won the seat because “former Tory voters voted for her”.

He said:

The left vote, if you like, the Labour vote, was split, but we won. The Tories had a clean hit, nobody was going against them, and they didn’t win.

They expected to win this, make no mistake about that.

Asked what his message was to those still calling for a leadership challenge,

Starmer said:

My message is, when the Labour party sticks to its core values, is rooted in its communities and pulls together, we can win just as we have won here.

This is the start. Labour is back.


Starmer has been making great play of the tone of the campaigning he says Labour’s opponents adopted, telling Sky News just now:

I think people are getting fed up with the politics of misinformation, half-truths, untruths and division. And what they want is what Kim can give them, which is positivity, which is bringing communities together.

Asked if he thought “Tory sleaze” was “beginning to stick to Boris Johnson”, he said:

I think people are beginning to see that there is a gulf of difference between integrity, honesty and bringing people together and the politics of division, of hatred, dividing everybody and mistruths and half truths. And Kim epitomises that.

And Starmer was asked how he felt about murmurings of a leadership challenge, had Labour not managed the narrow victory in Batley and Spen. He said:

I feel very good that all I’ve had all morning is calls and texts and messages from across the country of people wanting unity and the values that Kim has put on show here that are her values to her core, that have triumphed. I think that’s a moment of real unity for the Labour party, for Batley and Spen, but across the country. People are yearning for people like Kim and a Labour party and leaders that can pull people together.

He said his message to his own party would be:

When the Labour party sticks to its core values, is rooted in its communities and pulls together, we can win just as we’ve won here. This is the start. Labour is back.


'Labour is coming home'

Speaking to supporters, Starmer has added:

As you would say yourself, Kim, you’ve also got to crack on with it. We want you down in parliament and we will all be so proud – I will be so proud sitting at the dispatch box in parliament on Monday – when Kim is sworn in as the member of parliament for Batley and Spen.

But this campaign has been tough because others have poisoned it; poisoned it with hatred, with division, with finding difference, with misinformation, with lies, with harassment, threats and intimidation.

That that should have happened in Batley and Spen, of all places, is disgusting. That that should have happened to Kim, of all people, is unforgivable. And, for all those who engaged in it and for all those who didn’t call it out, they should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

This is a victory of hope over division. It is a start. Labour is back. Labour is back.

That battle that went on here between decency and honesty and bringing people together and division, manipulation, misinformation, lies; that battle isn’t just in Batley and Spen, that is the battle of modern politics. And the Labour party is in that battle, we’re going to fight all the way – every inch of the way. And we’re going to win that battle. We’ve got to fight that. But Labour is back. This is just the start – I want many more days like this.

Labour is coming home.


The Labour leader Keir Starmer has been speaking in Batley and Spen after Kim Leadbeater’s victory there for his party. He has told supporters:

What a fantastic victory. What a really important victory for Batley and Spen of hope over division and decency over hatred. And I just want to start by saying a massive thank you to all of you for everything you’ve put in.

You’ve been a great, great, great candidate, a great campaign and a great team and thank you for every minute, every hour, every day, every week you put in, the blood you have sweated, every door that you have knocked because that is what has brought this about. Absolutely fantastic and thank you.

It took incredible courage for Kim to stand here and to go through this campaign, incredible courage. Kim epitomises everything I want our Labour party to be.

She is of her community – everybody knows Kim, however they vote, they all know Kim because of what she’s put in. She’s of her community, she’s for her community, she’s got integrity, she believes in truth and honesty and in bringing people together. And that is, as I say, exactly what I want for our Labour party; the values of our Labour party. She will be a fantastic member of parliament for Batley and Spen; a really fantastic member.

I was elected into parliament on the same day as Jo Cox; we entered parliament together. And there isn’t a day when we all don’t miss Jo. But, Kim, she would be so proud to see you today, so proud to see you as a member of parliament.


HuffPost’s Paul Waugh says Labour has suspended party members who supported George Galloway in the run up to the byelection in Batley and Spen.

NEC source tells me Labour has already acted to suspend several party members who were found to have supported Galloway. They got suspension letters on eve of polling day and polling day itself.

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) July 2, 2021


A man has been charged with common assault after England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, was accosted in a central London park.

Lewis Hughes, 23, of Romford, east London, was charged on Thursday evening and would appear at Westminster magistrates court on Friday 30 July, the Metropolitan police said.

An investigation was launched after a group of men accosted Whitty in St James’s Park at around 7.20pm on Sunday. Footage of the incident, lasting around 20 seconds, was shared on social media, PA news reports.

The Met said officers had reviewed the footage and the matter was referred to the public order crime team.

Labour MPs who have campaigned hard for Kim Leadbeater in Batley and Spen over recent days say her narrow 323 vote victory in Thursday’s byelection is very much hers.

A committed local activist who has worked to bring her local community together since her MP sister, Jo Cox, was murdered there by extremists in 2016, she dealt calmly and resolutely with the rigours of a nasty campaign.

Indeed, party strategists believe it was partly the public’s revulsion at unsettling images of Leadbeater being heckled that helped bring voters out to support her, even from traditionally Conservative areas of the seat.

Even on Thursday, Labour MPs contacted by the Guardian as they poured into Batley for a get-out-the vote drive in the sunshine remained pessimistic, so her narrow victory came as a sweet relief.

Had Leadbeater lost, however, such is the brutal nature of Westminster politics that it would have been read by many backbench MPs not as her personal defeat, but Keir Starmer’s.

The Labour leader has come under consistent friendly fire in recent weeks for failing to offer a convincingly clear message about what the party stands for, or to narrow Boris Johnson’s poll lead despite a string of revelations about sleaze.

Many MPs have privately been offering gloomy prognostications in recent days about the dire state of their party, and some were preparing to urge colleagues to launch a leadership challenge.

There were even suggestions Labour could come third, behind George Galloway – way wide of the mark in the event, since Leadbeater took 13,296 votes, her Conservative rival Ryan Stephenson 12,973 and Galloway 8,264.

So febrile was the mood in recent days that even Starmer’s deputy, Angela Rayner, was being mooted as a candidate, and was forced to deny any knowledge of plans for a leadership bid on Thursday – though she did not quite rule out launching one.

Read more here:

More than 6m applications have been made to the EU citizens settlement scheme which will allow Europeans and their families remain permanently in the country, the government has said.

The figures, released after the 30 June deadline for applications passed, put the number of EU and European Economic Area citizens, at two to three million higher than original estimates of EU citizens living in the country before Brexit.

Home secretary Priti Patel said:

Having more than 6m applications to the scheme is an unprecedented achievement and I am delighted that we have secured the rights of so many EU citizens – our friends, neighbours and family members.

When we left the EU we promised to protect the rights of EU citizens who have made their life in the UK, and developed the hugely successful EU Settlement Scheme to ensure they could call the UK home in the years to come.

Most non-complex applications are being decided within five days, the Home Office said, but the backlog which stood at 400,000 last month now stands at 570,000.

“Around 5,000 older cases cannot progress as they are held at the suitability stage, for example awaiting the result of a pending criminal prosecution,” the Home Office said.

The minister for future borders and immigration, Kevin Foster, said:

I’m delighted more than six million applications have been made to our hugely successful EU Settlement Scheme and we have a team of 1,500 caseworkers working on those outstanding.

The safeguards we have built in to protect those who have not yet applied, but who may still be eligible, will mean everybody will be able to get the status they deserve and if you did miss the deadline I would urge you to get in touch today so we can help.


Diane Abbott has repeatedly refusing to say she has confidence in Keir Starmer on BBC News in a tense exchange.

The Labour MP accused presenter Ben Brown of being a typical “Westminster journalist” who didn’t want to discuss the real issues that affect voters.

Abbott repeatedly answered the question in the same way when asked whether she has confidence in Starmer.

She said she has “confidence in the party” but she’ll “never do to Keir what the right of the party did to Jeremy”.


Here’s more from Conservative party co-chair Amanda Milling on the byelection results and why Batley and Spen didn’t turn blue overnight.

She told Times Radio Matt Hancock’s behaviour had a part to play in the byelection defeat in Batley and Spen.

She said:

Look, a whole range of issues came up on the doorstep. But you know, I’ve got to be honest, it did come up at the weekend. But you know, it was one of a number of different issues.

What we were making the case for was, this is about who is going to represent you as an MP for Batley and Spen and represent you in parliament and work with government. We were very, very close to getting Ryan (Stephenson) elected. Obviously, I’m disappointed we didn’t get over the line.

And despite the defeat Milling said Labour has “questions to be answered” over the size of the victory.

She said:

Each and every byelection is completely different. Each is unique. We did incredibly well to come within just over 300 votes in terms of gaining the seat. So I think there really are a lot of questions to be answered by the Labour party because they didn’t run a campaign which was really focused on their brand.

The campaign literature didn’t have much sign of that red which we know, and also their branding, and also Keir Starmer was completely absent from it. So questions in terms of why they were kind of distancing themselves from both Labour and the leader.


Labour has formally sought an explanation from the government as to why there has been no investigation into whether Matt Hancock broke the law during his relationship with an aide, despite what the party called “clear evidence” of a breach.

The Labour request, in a letter to the attorney general, Michael Ellis, comes as a political thinktank argued that Hancock’s behaviour highlighted the need for the ministerial code to be underpinned by law.

The Institute for Government (IFG) report cited the decision not to dismiss Hancock, who resigned as health secretary, and said that, in light of other government revelations such as about lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital, Boris Johnson had allowed standards of ministerial behaviour to weaken.

Hancock was pictured in an embrace at his office with Gina Coladangelo, a longtime friend and a non-executive director at Hancock’s health department, on 6 May.

The Labour letter, signed by Charles Falconer, the shadow attorney general, David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, and Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, notes that Hancock’s contact with Coladangelo was not permitted under social distancing rules in place at the time.

The letter says:

These are the rules and regulations which the vast majority of the British public made huge sacrifices to follow – including by missing birthdays, weddings and even funerals of close family members and friends.

To maintain confidence in the criminal justice system, the public need to know that the law will apply equally to everyone irrespective of rank, job, or title. The footage of the former health secretary and his aide is clear evidence that the law on indoor gatherings was breached. It appears impossible to describe the gathering shown in the footage as reasonably necessary for the purposes of work.

Read more here:

Public anger at Matt Hancock’s breach of social distancing rules with an aide with whom he had started an affair was a factor in the Conservative party’s “disappointing” failure to win the Batley and Spen byelection, the party’s co-chair has conceded.

Amanda Milling was speaking on the morning after Kim Leadbeater took the seat for Labour after she received 13,296 votes, a majority of 323 over the Tory candidate, Ryan Stephenson.

“It was something that came up on the doorstep, I have to be honest about that,” Milling told Sky News after being asked if public anger at the former health secretary’s behaviour had cost the party votes.

“They had some issues over the weekend in terms of what happened. Matt resigned and that was the right thing to do,” she said.

Describing the result as “disappointing”, Milling said the government had faced an uphill task to take the seat, which was vacated by its previous MP, Tracy Brabin, after she was elected as the region’s metro mayor.

After a desperate last-ditch effort to hang on to his job, Hancock resigned after he was pictured in an embrace at his office with Gina Coladangelo, a longtime friend and a non-executive director at the department of the then secretary of state for health, on 6 May.

Labour’s national campaign coordinator, Shabana Mahmood, hailed Leadbeater’s win as a “fantastic result for the Labour party and a richly deserved win”.

Read more here:

Nicola Sturgeon has tweeted that she is “pleased” that Kim Leadbeater has been elected as MP in her late sister’s constituency.

The Scottish first minister added that the campaign looked “ugly at times” and that is was good that the “deliberate tactics from some quarters” had been defeated.

You don’t have to be a Labour supporter to be pleased that Kim Leadbeater has been elected as MP for her late sister’s constituency. Observing from afar, the campaign looked ugly at times - made so by deliberate tactics from some quarters. It is good to see that defeated.

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) July 2, 2021

Labour MP David Lammy has shared a video from 2005 of himself calling George Galloway a “carpetbagger” who whips up racial tensions.

He added that the people of Batley and Spen “have rightly rejected him”.

Rupa Huq, another Labour MP, also shared the clip and said:

Glasgow, Bethnal Green and Bow, Bradford, Manchester Gorton, London Assembly, Scottish Parliament… poisonous Galloway is champion carpetbagger as a young David Lammy points out here.

Once again conquest has fallen flat, he needs to crawl back under his rock now.

I said it in 2005 and I’ll say it again.

George Galloway is a carpetbagger who whips up racial tensions.

The people of Batley and Spen have rightly rejected

— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) July 2, 2021

Here’s more commentary on whether Matt Hancock’s affair played a part in the Conservatives losing to Labour in the byelection.

Ben Riley-Smith, political editor of the Daily Telegraph, shared what a Tory MP had told him about conversations on the doorstep during the campaign.

The MP said people were riled up by the idea that Hancock would soon be welcomed back into public life.

Here’s what one Tory MP who visited Batley just told me. Said a female voter in their 40s expressed anger at handling of the Matt Hancock affair. Seems the backlash was real.

— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) July 2, 2021


Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Labour’s victory in the Batley and Spen byelection was a “great result” but that the party’s policies needed “sharpening”.

She told the Today programme:

It’s a great result for the people of Batley and Spen, and a great result for the team that led on the ground ... because in a very tight result every vote counts.

But above all, it’s a great result for Kim Leadbeater who had to face down a very ugly, homophobic campaign.

Of course we need to continue to think about policy, to sharpen and better define policy, but we won and we’re moving forward.


If you are just catching up, Labour has narrowly won the Batley and Spen byelection, holding on to the West Yorkshire seat after a hotly contested campaign.

Labour won 13,296 votes with the Conservatives recording 12,973, according to official results. Kim Leadbeater defeated Ryan Stephenson, the Tory candidate, by 323 votes. George Galloway, representing the Workers party of Britain, came third with 8,264 votes.

The result, which Labour had feared would not go its way, was declared at about 5.25am on Friday after two “bundle checks” – not a full recount, but where the piles of votes are flicked through for irregularities. The result eases the pressure on Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer, after a humiliating defeat in Hartlepool in May.

On Friday morning, Starmer said he welcomed the “fantastic result for the brilliant and brave” Leadbeater.

The tense campaign had been mired in accusations of dirty tricks and intimidatory tactics. It came five years after the MP Jo Cox, Leadbeater’s older sister, was murdered in the constituency by a far-right terrorist.

Leadbeater, 44, said she was “absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and they’ve voted for hope”.

Read the full story by my colleagues Maya Wolfe-Robinson and Heather Stewart here:


Lord Mandelson said the result in the Batley and Spen byelection was a chance for the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, to “take the party in a winning direction”.

Speaking on the Today programme, he said:

We’ve got to demonstrate that we’re ready for government in our policies, our outlook and optimism for Britain, our ambitions for the country.

Because at the moment, and I will be honest about this, that’s not how we are seen by sufficient numbers of people.

We’re not pulling people towards us in sufficient numbers. We have to show we are a competitive, viable alternative to the Tories.

Mandelson added that Starmer needed to use the Labour party conference to “set out his stall properly”.

“He’s got to show and map out a way forward for the party and I’m confident that he’ll do so,” he said.


Brendan Cox, husband of Jo Cox, has tweeted his thanks to Conservative Batley and Spen candidate Ryan Stephenson for “fighting the campaign on the issues and not pandering to divisions”.

He added: “We may disagree on a lot but he’s a good man and has more to give.”

Elections are bruising and it takes bravery to stand. Thank you to @Stephenson_Ryan for fighting the campaign on the issues and not pandering to divisions. We may disagree on a lot but he’s a good man and has more to give.

— Brendan Cox (@MrBrendanCox) July 2, 2021

Lord Mandelson said that Kim Leadbeater had “embodied the politics of hope” as he praised her victory in the Batley and Spen byelection.

He told the BBC’s Today programme:

Following the defeat in Hartlepool, this is a really important victory for Kim and for Labour.

Kim embodied the politics of hope, of reaching out beyond the sectarian division that pits communities against communities, just as her sister Jo Cox did.

It’s a victory, frankly, against the politics of very ugly division represented by George Galloway and his campaign’s attempts to create what amounted to a communal grievance amongst Muslim voters and to unleash racial and homophobic forces in the constituency that were really very unpleasant to see.


Did the Matt Hancock scandal give Labour the edge in Batley and Spen?

Joe Murphy, political editor for the Evening Standard, has pointed out on Twitter that Amanda Milling, co-chairman of the Conservatives has said Hancock came up on the doorstep.

“Now Robert Hayward, a very respected election analyst, says he ‘may have made the difference’ in the 323-vote margin,” Murphy added in a tweet, along with this video of Hayward talking to Kay Burley on Sky News.

“With a small majority this might have influenced the result.”

Conservative peer, Lord Hayward says the issue of Matt Hancock’s behaviour ‘may have made the difference’ in the Batley and Spen by-election.#KayBurley:

— Sky News (@SkyNews) July 2, 2021


Momentum, the Labour group for Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, says the byelection result should be “a wake-up call” for the party. In a statement, Andrew Scattergood, its co-chair, said:

Thanks to the work of hundreds of grassroots activists and an excellent local candidate, Labour has held this seat. But we can’t pretend that this was a general election winning performance. Our vote share today was down 20% on the 2017 general election.

This narrow victory must act as a wake-up call for the leadership: we can no longer take Labour’s core vote, particularly Muslim voters, for granted.

Labour needs to be a party that fights on the same side as working people and argues that workers, not billionaires, should control how society is rebuilt after the pandemic.

That is all from me this morning. My colleague Nicola Slawson is taking over now.


Best for Britain, the anti-Brexit group, says the Batley and Spen byelection result highlights the need for a progressive alliance at the next election. Its chief executive, Naomi Smith, said:

While this well-deserved victory should be celebrated, over the last few years we have seen too often what happens when the progressive parties split each others’ votes, and let this divisive and nativist government in through the middle.

Pacts between the Conservatives, Ukip and the Brexit party are well rehearsed, and so before the next general election, internationalist parties must agree between them how to deny this government another majority and deliver a fairer voting system that will make such agreements unnecessary in the future.


Here is some more Labour reaction to the byelection result.

From Jeremy Corbyn, the former party leader:

Well done @kimleadbeater. Now begins the process of bringing a fractured community together. I’m sure she’ll make the people of #BatleyAndSpen proud - and that she will represent them all.

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) July 2, 2021

From Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary:

This is a stunning result that means so much to the whole Labour family. Kim fought off a toxic campaign with energy and positivity. She will be an amazing champion for Batley and Spen.

— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) July 2, 2021


Starmer says byelection win shows 'Labour at its best' and is 'just the start'

Sir Keir Starmer has issued a statement about the Batley and Spen result, describing it as showing “just the start” and showing “Labour at its best”. He said:

This is a fantastic result for the brilliant and brave Kim Leadbeater who will be an incredible Labour MP for Batley and Spen.

Kim has shown inspiring resilience in the face of hatred and intimidation. She was unafraid to call it out and ran a positive campaign of hope. Kim embodies everything I want the Labour party to stand for: passionate about her local community and determined to bring people together.

We won this election against the odds, and we did so by showing that when we are true to our values – decency, honesty, committed to improving lives – then Labour can win.

This result shows Labour at its best. This is just the start.

Keir Starmer campaigning with Kim Leadbeater last month
Keir Starmer campaigning with Kim Leadbeater last month. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA


Tory party co-chair suggests Matt Hancock's conduct helped Labour hold Batley and Spen

Amanda Milling, the Conservative party co-chairman, suggested this morning that Matt Hancock’s resignation, following the revelation at the end of last week that he broke Covid regulations by kissing an aide in his office, helped to enable Labour to hold Batley and Spen.

In an interview on BBC Breakfast, asked if this had been an issue for the party, Milling said lots of issues had come up. But she went on:

I’ll be honest with you; the issue with Matt did come up on the doorstep. But it was a whole wide range of different issues.

Asked to explain what she meant by Hancock’s resignation being an issue, Milling seemed to refer to his hypocrisy in breaking rules he was telling other people to follow by saying:

Obviously, people have made many, many sacrifices over the last 12 months or so and been frustrated by the impact the virus has had on our lives …

She also stressed that it was a Labour seat, and that governing parties generally do not take seats from the opposition in byelections.

Polling published yesterday also suggests the Hancock affair has weakened support for the Conservatives.

Amanda Milling on BBC Breakfast this morning
Amanda Milling on BBC Breakfast this morning. Photograph: BBC News


Here is my colleague Heather Stewart’s analysis of the election result.

And here is an extract.

Leadbeater’s narrow victory, turning the seat into a super-marginal, suggests the electoral tide may still be moving against Labour – Tracy Brabin’s majority in the 2019 general election was more than 3,500.

The fact that Galloway was able to convince 8,000 voters to support him by playing on Starmer’s alleged neglect of the Muslim community is also likely to stoke fears that Labour is alienating once-loyal groups of voters.

But Starmer now has a clear run to get on with what he has been promising his party he is ready to do: get out to the voters and convince them Labour would improve their lives, and he would make a better prime minister than Johnson.

This is from Prof Jane Green, co-director of the British Election Study.

Batley and Spen thoughts.

1. Remarkable result, remarkable seat, unusual campaign.

2. Very good news for Labour given threat on left and also the right, like Labour’s national problem but here with Galloway.

3. But we *really* can’t generalise. Too many unknowns and unique.

— Jane Green (@ProfJaneGreen) July 2, 2021

Here is some more Labour reaction to the byelection result.

From Andrew Adonis, a former cabinet minister, peer, and arch Blairite:

The tiny Labour majority of 323 in Batley & Spen will stave off an immediate leadership challenge to Keir Starmer, just as the tiny Labour majority of 683 in the Peterborough by-election of June 2019 preserved Corbyn’s leadership 2 years ago

But obviously the situation is grim

— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) July 2, 2021

From Steve Howell, a former deputy director for strategy and communications for Jeremy Corbyn when he was party leader:

The Tories got only 34.3% in #BatleyAndSpen and haven't won more than 40% since 1992.

Like other Red Belt seats, it's an anti-Tory constituency. The question for Labour is how to mobilise that majority.

Here's a clue: our best ever vote (55.5%) was in 2017. #ForTheManyNotTheFew

— Steve Howell (@FromSteveHowell) July 2, 2021

From James Schneider, a former press adviser to Corbyn when he was leader:

Pleased to wake up to no Conservative advance in Batley and Spen. Now Labour needs to show it stands for the many not the few, or face continued decline.

— James Schneider (@schneiderhome) July 2, 2021

From David Clark, a special adviser to Robin Cook when he was foreign secretary:

So many brilliant parts to this. Bleating Corbynites see their revenge mission crash in flames. Professional loser George Galloway probably helped Labour to win in the end. Tory hubris is punctured. Labour ends up with a great MP as well.

— David Clark (@David_K_Clark) July 2, 2021


Although the Labour party is celebrating this morning, that is largely a function of how expectations were shaped ahead of the result. As Prof Michael Thrasher, a leading psephologist, explains in an analysis for Sky News, the fundamentals for the party remain bleak, and it is stuck in “crisis management mode”.

Here’s an extract.

A Labour majority of 3,525 votes has been reduced ten-fold. Labour’s vote share fell to 35.3%, a drop of seven percentage points from the last general election and a 20 point decline since the 2017 election.

The Conservative vote too fell but only by 1.6 points. The swing was 2.9% from Labour to Conservative.

Labour’s vote share has fallen in the last 12 parliamentary by-elections. There may not be a challenge to Sir Keir’s leadership but Labour remains in crisis management mode.

Sir Keir Starmer will be visiting Batley and Spen later today to celebrate Labour’s victory, Kim Leadbeater, the new MP, told Sky News.

Amanda Milling, the Conservative party co-chairman, told Sky News this morning that her party “didn’t lose the byelection” because what happened was that Labour held the seat. She continued:

[Labour] held the seat only by a whisker. It was not a great success for the Labour party.

We did not gain the seat. It was not ours to lose. It was the Labour party’s to lose.

"This is not a great win for the Labour Party."

Conservative Party Co-Chair @AmandaMilling says she's "really disappointed" by the by-election result after fighting a "really hard campaign".

Read more about Labour's #BatleyAndSpen by-election win 👉

— Sky News (@SkyNews) July 2, 2021


Here is some comment on the byelection result from election specialists.

From Lewis Baston, an elections analyst

First thought is that it is a better result for Labour than it looks given that in 2019 an ex-UKIP right wing local party got 12 per cent and in 2021 Galloway got 22 per cent.

— Lewis Baston (@lewis_baston) July 2, 2021

From Matt Singh, founder of Number Cruncher Politics

So a Labour hold, albeit a narrow and unconvincing one. On paper it’s a poor result for them - a swing to the governing party is never good for an opposition - but there mitigating electoral factors, and it’s a hold nonetheless. (That it was unexpected matters psychologically)

— Matt Singh (@MattSingh_) July 2, 2021

Plenty to chew over in terms of how they held on in spite of Galloway’s intervention and Halloran’s withdrawal. Tories may have done better given the wider picture, but a governing party narrowly failing to gain an opposition seat is never a disaster even if it’s a disappointment

— Matt Singh (@MattSingh_) July 2, 2021

Galloway got a decent vote total. But he entered the race with the stated aim of splitting the left and defeating Labour. He failed to do so.

— Matt Singh (@MattSingh_) July 2, 2021

From Keiran Pedley from Ipsos MORI

One thing I do wonder - and causation is nigh on impossible to prove - is whether Cons win without Hancock stuff. Buried within some frankly bad numbers for Starmer here is a dip in favourability towards the Cons post Hancock. Fine margins in a by-election but obvs can’t prove it

— Keiran Pedley (@keiranpedley) July 2, 2021

Pedley is referring to this polling showing how the Matt Hancock affair has damaged the standing of the Tories.

From Paula Surridge, an academic

The LibDems weren't squeezed as much as I expected - though of course could be that some of their vote came from the Conservatives and that many past LDs voted Labour.

— Paula Surridge (@p_surridge) July 2, 2021

From Sunder Katwala, director of the British Future thinktank

> Kim Leadbeater won personal votes for her local work & Lab mobilised its vote well. Prob some Cons 2019 votes for Labour (maybe an anti-Galloway reaction)

> Low key Cons campaign will be criticised, but the candidate & party did avoid stoking the local temperature up further.

— Sunder Katwala (@sundersays) July 2, 2021

While Galloway pitched heavily as an anti-Labour candidate to local Muslim voters, other aspects of his "anti-woke" rhetoric also has some overlap with the ex-Ukip independents. (Though they were a local independent force, and he was very much an outsider)

— Sunder Katwala (@sundersays) July 2, 2021

HWI were the Heavy Wollen Independents, the banner that Paul Halloran used when he stood as an independent in the seat in 2019. (See 6.07pm.)


This is from Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader. Yesterday she had to deny that she was plotting a leadership bid against Sir Keir Starmer in the event of a Labour defeat in the byelection.

Congrats to @kimleadbeater and the whole Labour team. Thank you to the people of Batley & Spen 🌹 It was so good to see so many activists out on the doorstep ❤️

— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) July 2, 2021

How vote share changed since 2019

This illustrates how the vote share changed since 2019.



Kim Leadbeater giving an interview after her election as the new MP for Batley and Spen.
Kim Leadbeater giving an interview after her election as the new MP for Batley and Spen.
Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A Labour campaign source said the party exceeded expectations in some of the wards across the Spen Valley that normally lean Conservative.

It is thought that much of George Galloway’s support – 21.8% of the vote share – came from the larger towns of Batley and Heckmondwike, which have a larger Asian population and have traditionally been Labour strongholds.

Ryan Stephenson, for the Conservatives, dubbed the “invisible man” during the campaign, arrived at the count only 10 minutes before the result and beat a hasty retreat without giving any interviews.


Galloway says he will take court action to challenge byelection result

George Galloway, who came third in the byelection and who failed in his bid to deprive Labour of victory, claimed outside the count that his campaign had been derailed by a false claim made about him and that he would be going to court to try to get the result overturned.

He said it was claimed that he had stood laughing on the other side of the road when Labour’s Kim Leadbeater was harassed outside a mosque. But in fact he was on the same side of the road, 100 yards away, and not laughing, he said. He continued:

Yet this false statement, which I believe turned the tide in the election, was very damaging to us, was completely false, and again, deliberately so.

Galloway also claimed he had been “multiply defamed” to the point where he would no longer talk to the mainstream media. He said:

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.

So on multiple grounds we will apply to the courts for this election result to be set aside.

It is very rare for an election result to be turned aside by the courts. But in his statement Galloway cited the case of Phil Woolas as an example how this was possible. Woolas was re-elected as Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth in 2010, but a court subsequently overturned the result after it ruled he had lied about his Lib Dem opponent.

George Galloway outside the count at Batley and Spen
George Galloway outside the count at Batley and Spen. Photograph: Sky News


Brendan Cox, who was married to Jo Cox, has congratulated his sister-in-law on her victory.

We are all incredibly proud of @kimleadbeater 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.

— Brendan Cox (@MrBrendanCox) July 2, 2021

Commenting on the result, a senior Labour source said:

Everyone’s been calling this a referendum on Keir’s leadership.

Well we’ve won – bucked the trend, held on to this marginal seat and advanced in Tory areas. A fantastic result.


In her victory speech, Kim Leadbeater made a point of thanking the police, whom she said “sadly, I have needed more than ever over the last few weeks”. This was a reference to the violence and intimidation that has marked what has been a particularly unpleasant byelection.

Then she made a point of thanking the Labour party, friends and family. Her sister, Jo Cox, was Labour MP for Batley and Spen until she was murdered by a far-right terrorist in 2016, in the final days of the Brexit referendum campaign.

Leadbeater said:

There’s way too many people to mention by name, but I do want to refer to my family and my friends, who, without them, I could not have got through the last five years, never mind the last five weeks. My amazing parents and my wonderful partner, and I want to give a special shout out to my niece and nephew who I cannot wait to hug as soon as I see them.

The focus now is catching up on a bit of sleep, maybe having a few glasses of fizz, and then there is lots to do, and I think the campaign has highlighted that there’s lots to do.

But I’m going to crack on with it and I will do my very best to represent the whole of Batley and Spen as their new MP. I am absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and they voted for hope.

Ryan Stephenson (right), the defeated Conservative candidate, applauding Kim Leadbeater.
Ryan Stephenson (right), the defeated Conservative candidate, applauding Kim Leadbeater.
Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA


Batley and Spen byelection results in full

Here are the full results from PA Media.

Kim Leadbeater (Lab) 13,296 (35.27%)

Ryan Stephenson (C) 12,973 (34.42%)

George Galloway (WP) 8,264 (21.92%)

Thomas Gordon (LD) 1,254 (3.33%)

Corey Robinson (Yorkshire) 816 (2.16%)

Therese Hirst (Eng Dem) 207 (0.55%)

Jack Thomson (UKIP) 151 (0.40%)

Howling Laud Hope (Loony) 107 (0.28%)

Mike Davies (Green Soc) 104 (0.28%)

Paul Bickerdike (CPA) 102 (0.27%)

Jonathan Tilt (FA) 100 (0.27%)

Anne Marie Waters (FB) 97 (0.26%)

Andrew Smith (Rejoin) 75 (0.20%)

Oliver Purser (Soc Dem) 66 (0.18%)

Jayda Fransen (Ind) 50 (0.13%)

Susan Laird (Heritage) 33 (0.09%)

Lab majority 323 (0.86%)

Electorate 79,373; Turnout 37,695 (47.49%)

Starmer welcomes ‘fantastic’ victory for Labour’s ‘positive campaign of hope’

Good morning. Labour has pulled off a surprise win in the Batley and Spen byelection. It is a seat the party has held since 1997, and so in theory a win should not be unexpected, but a poll last month showed the Conservatives six points ahead and earlier this week many in Labour had all but written off their chances, saying the chances of victory were 10% at most.

Various factors made it problematic for the party. Labour had a majority here of just 3,525 at the last election, but in 2019 an independent candidate, Paul Halloran, came third with more than 6,000 seats and it was assumed that his time, with Halloran not standing, his votes belonged to the Conservatives. With Labour languishing in the polls nationally, and Boris Johnson basking in the success of the national vaccine rollout scheme, this looked like another northern seat where the Tories could pull off a shock upset. And then George Galloway, who has twice in the past snatched seats like this from Labour, turned up to run a high-profile campaign with the express intention preventing Labour from winning so as to bring down Sir Keir Starmer as leader.

But Labour won. Here is my colleague Maya Wolfe-Robinson’s story from the count.

And here is Starmer’s reaction.

Fantastic result for the brilliant and brave @KimLeadbeater.

Kim ran a positive campaign of hope, in the face of division.

She will be an outstanding Labour MP for Batley and Spen.

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) July 2, 2021

This is the third byelection result in recent weeks that has defied some predictions, after Hartlepool (where the Conservatives took what used to be a safe Labour seat) and Chesham and Amersham (where the Lib Dems gained a seat the Tories had been expected to hold comfortably). Of the three, this is the only one that involves a party holding a seat, but for many in Labour this morning that will still feel like a surprise.

We will be covering reaction to the result through the morning.

I’m sorry we are not in a position to open comments now, but they will be open later.



Nicola Slawson, Kevin Rawlinson and Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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