Politics

‘Would rather set fire to my face!’ Campbell accuses Owen Jones of tearing Labour apart

Labour 'should be worrying' about Lib Dem gain says expert

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Labour is hoping to hold off a Tory challenge in the contest, triggered by former MP Tracy Brabin being elected as mayor of West Yorkshire. Speaking to Novara media, a pro-Corbyn publication, Mr Jones urged Sir Keir Starmer to step down as Labour leader if they lose the seat.

He commented: “If he loses Batley and Spen, Keir Starmer has to resign as leader of the Labour Party and the left has to think very seriously about how we get some sort of candidate on the ballot paper.

“Oppositions do not lose by-elections. That almost never happens.

“Before Hartlepool, that had happened twice in the last 50 years.”

The remarks caught the attention of Alastair Campbell, a prominent anti-Brexit activist following the 2016 referendum.

Addressing Mr Jones he tweeted: “So why don’t you and the fellow travellers help the brilliant Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater rather than the putrescence that is Galloway who is now suddenly the Tories’ best friend and only hope?”

George Galloway is standing in the by-election for the Workers Party of Britain, and some within Labour fear he could split the left-wing vote.

Mr Jones strongly denied supporting the former Labour and Respect Party MP.

He wrote: “Unlike you, Alistair, I’ve only ever voted for the Labour Party. You were voting Lib Dem two years ago.

“I would rather set my face on fire than support George Galloway, and if he does well that’s the fault of the Labour leadership, not me.”

Ms Leadbreater is the sister of Jo Cox, who was MP for Batley and Spen until being murdered by a far-right extremist in 2016.

The Conservatives are hoping to repeat their success at the Hartlepool by-election in May when they took a former Labour stronghold with over 50 percent of the vote.

On Thursday they lost the previously safe Tory seat of Chesham and Amersham to the Liberal Democrats.

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Sir Ed Davey’s party won with a 30.4 percent swing, giving them 21,517 votes.

However, Labour fell into fourth place, behind the Greens, with just 622 votes.

Campaigning in Batley with Ryan Stephenson, the Conservative candidate, Boris Johnson vowed to “level up” Britain.

He added: “That means looking at all the issues that matter, whether that’s people’s education, improving skills in this area, working with Kirklees to improve skills, putting more money into apprenticeships.

“Opportunity isn’t equally distributed and the objective of levelling up is to work with great people in West Yorkshire, in Batley, to give young people growing up in the area the chances they deserve.”

Mr Galloway is campaigning under the slogan “Starmer Out”.

He hopes a Labour defeat will force Sir Keir to resign, triggering a Labour leadership contest.

Sir Keir played down the threat when questioned by the Dewsbury Reporter.

He said: “This by-election is not about me, it’s about the people of Batley and Spen and whether they get a fantastic MP who is going to stick up for them whenever they need a champion.

“All of the candidates who are trying to make this by-election about me, about something else or a national issue are disrespecting the people of Batley and Spen.”
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