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Angela Rayner’s leadership hopes crushed after Batley and Spen ‘puts end’ to campaign

Keir Starmer outlines planned Labour Party 'changes'

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Sir Keir sighed with relief this morning after finding out that his party had held on to the seat of Batley and Spen. The party’s candidate Kim Leadbeater said constituents had “voted for hope” and “rejected division” in what was one of the most intense and volatile by-elections in years. It means Labour has kept a foothold in the Red Wall, with the aim of rebuilding its support base in the future.

Sir Keir will also be relieved as the win means any immediate challenges to his leadership will take a back seat.

Yesterday, reports emerged that his deputy leader Angela Rayner was preparing a bid for the top job if Labour were to lose Batley and Spen.

She shrugged the report off, saying it was “news to me”.

However, Professor Steven Fielding, a Labour commentator, said the victory will put a decisive end to Ms Rayner’s alleged plans.

He told Express.co.uk: “Had Labour lost, there’s no doubt, it was all building up to talk about Keir Starmer being forced to resign, there being challenges.

“But I think even if Labour had lost, Starmer could’ve stumbled on, wounded.

“But this victory, narrow though it was, has given him some time until the next crisis to sort things out.

“If Angela Rayner was thinking about launching a leadership bid she won’t be thinking about it tonight.”

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While Ms Leadbeater and Sir Keir secured the by-election, the margins were slim.

She defeated her Conservative rival by just 323 votes.

Sir Keir nonetheless welcomed the “fantastic result”, adding that Ms Leadbeater “ran a positive campaign of hope, in the face of division”.

The campaign quickly became a hotbed of distrust, misinformation, alleged violence and a fierce battle, with outside attempts to thwart the left vote by George Galloway and his Workers Party of Britain.

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Before the ballot, The Times reported that MPs had been canvassing support among parliamentary colleagues and trade unions for Ms Rayner.

She would need the support of 40 MPs – 20 percent of the parliamentary party – to mount a challenge.

The publication said left-wing MPs had also been approached about a possible challenge if Labour’s performance fell short of the mark.

Yet, even if Labour had been defeated, polling data suggests members do not want Ms Rayner as their next leader.

In a YouGov survey commissioned by Sky News this week, Labour members were asked: “Imagine that Keir Starmer stepped down, there was a fresh election for leader of the Labour Party and the following people stood. Which of the following do you think you would be most likely to give your first preference vote to?”

Voters were asked about Ms Rayner, Lisa Nandy, Yvette Cooper, Richard Burgon and Rebecca Long-Bailey.

Just 12 percent chose Ms Rayner.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Labour grandee Lord Peter Mandelson, said Ms Rayner must now “reevaluate” who she thinks are her friends in the party.

He said those in the party close to former leader Jeremy Corbyn were using the deputy leader for their own ends.

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