Muslim voters have abandoned the Labour Party in the Batley and Spen by-election but Labour still managed to win the narrowest of victories to hold onto the seat.
Labour’s Kim Leadbeater defeated her Conservative rival by just 323 votes, meaning she will now represent the seat previously held by her sister Jo Cox who was murdered there in 2016.
George Galloway picked up 8,264 votes largely due to backing from local Muslims, it is thought.
The result, with Leadbeater gaining 13,296 votes, will ease pressure on Labour leader Keir Starmer after recent election defeats for his party.
“I want to say a huge thank you to the police who, sadly, I have needed more than ever over the last few weeks,” Leadbeater said. “And I want to say a huge thank you to the whole Labour Party team for the hours, and the time, and the commitment that they have put into supporting me and helping me to get to this fantastic result this evening…
“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.”
But George Galloway said he would challenge the result in the courts.
Mr Galloway said he had “multiple grounds” to overturn the result. He alleged that a “false statement” had been made about him laughing while the winning candidate Kim Leadbeater was harassed.
“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,” Mr Galloway said. “So on multiple grounds we will apply to the courts for this election result to be set aside.”
Conservative candidate Ryan Stephenson came second with 12,973, and Tory Party co-chair Amanda Milling said it had been a “disappointing result” for her party. But she added that for her party to “run this close” was still “exceptional,” given it has been in government since 2010.
Sixteen candidates in total ran in contest. Turnout was 47.6%, with 37,786 verified ballots cast out of a total electorate of 79,373.
The contest was triggered after the previous Labour MP for the seat, Tracy Brabin, became West Yorkshire’s first elected mayor in May.