Labour managed to cling on to the seat by securing a majority of just 323 votes, a victory which delivered a massive boost to Sir Keir’s struggling leadership.
Sir Keir reportedly would have faced a leadership challenge from deputy leader Angela Rayner if the party lost another of its Red Wall seats after defeat in the Hartlepool by-election in May.
After last night’s victory, senior Labour ministers are urging Sir Keir to sack his deputy and slammed her apparent efforts to promote herself as the next Labour leader as a ‘total embarrassment’, The Times reported.
Sir Keir Starmer is reportedly being urged to sack his ‘disloyal’ deputy Angela Rayner after Labour’s narrow victory in the Batley and Spen by-election
A shadow cabinet minister told the publication: ‘I think he should sack her and let her be deputy from the backbenches.’
Allies of Mrs Rayner were said to have been canvassing Labour MPs and trade unions before the by-election to see if they would support a bid to oust Sir Keir.
But Miss Rayner claimed she was unaware of their plotting and previously dismissed the claims as ‘news to me’ while her spokesman insisted she was ‘focused entirely on her jobs’.
The deputy leader’s allies are believed to want her to take a tilt at the top job after she fell out with Sir Keir over a botched reshuffle.
Labour sources reportedly said the decision in May to sack Mrs Rayner as the party’s national campaign co-ordinator and replace her with Shabana Mahmood, the Birmingham Ladywood MP, was key in Labour’s Batley and Spen by-election victory.
The source added: ‘That was the turning point. This is a victory for those who made that happen.’
Sir Keir reportedly would have faced a leadership challenge from Mrs Rayner (pictured) if the party lost another of its Red Wall seats after defeat in the Hartlepool by-election in May
Sir Keir then tried to move his deputy after the party’s Hartlepool by-election, which saw the constituency elect its first ever Tory MP in a historic defeat, but instead negotiated a new role for her.
But allies of the deputy leader reportedly said Ms Rayner was made into a ‘scapegoat’ by Sir Keir after the Hartlepool by-election, adding that the shadow cabinet minister who called her ‘disloyal’ ‘looks a bit daft’.
Mrs Rayner’s spokesman said: ‘Whoever is doing this briefing and trying to use a fantastic Labour victory to undermine the elected deputy leader doesn’t help Keir and doesn’t help our party.’
Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered Jo Cox, won for Labour in Batley and Spen last night as she fended off Tory challenger Ryan Stephenson, who came second, and maverick George Galloway, who came third.
Following the victory, Sir Keir Starmer’s allies told Angela Rayner to ‘put the knives away’, while the party leader claimed that ‘Labour is coming home’ yesterday.
Ahead of the contest, Sir Keir had insisted he would not quit if Labour had lost, but supporters of Mrs Rayner were believed to be plotting a move against him.
One of his allies last night said: ‘Angela needs to put the knives away now. She looks like a splitter. Her doe-eyed routine has been completely ruined.’
Speaking in the constituency after the victory, Sir Keir declared: ‘Labour is back. This is just the start. I want many more days like this. Labour is coming home.’
Labour held the seat with a wafer-thin majority following a brutal few weeks on the campaign trail that saw candidates abused and heightened racial and sectarian tension.
Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered Jo Cox, won for Labour in Batley and Spen last night as she fended off Tory challenger Ryan Stephenson by securing a majority of just 323 votes
Labour sources suggested the win should prompt Sir Keir’s critics to retreat, telling Politico: ‘Everyone’s been calling this a referendum on Keir’s leadership. Well, we’ve won — bucked the trend, held onto this marginal seat and advanced in Tory areas. A fantastic result.’
Meanwhile, Lord Mandelson, a key figure in the Blair governments, said there should now be a ‘period of silence’ from those on the Labour hard-left who he claimed have been ‘conspiring’ against Sir Keir.
The peer claimed that Ms Rayner had been ‘egged on by people who are serving their own factional purposes and interests’ and that ‘she should realise that these are not her friends’.
Sir Keir said: ‘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.’
Ms Rayner tweeted: ‘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.’
Speaking after she was declared the winner, Ms Leadbeater said she had thought about her family and her sister Jo Cox often during the last few weeks, adding: ‘If I can be half the MP Jo was, I know I will do her proud.’
Allies of Mrs Rayner (pictured) were said to have been canvassing Labour MPs to see if they would support a bid to oust Sir Keir. Miss Rayner said she was unaware of their plotting
Lord Mandelson (pictured) said there should now be a ‘period of silence’ from those on the Labour hard-left who he claimed have been ‘conspiring’ against Sir Keir
Jo Cox, the 41-year-old mother-of-two, was shot and stabbed by far-Right extremist Thomas Mair on June 16 2016, just days before the Brexit referendum.
Ms Leadbeater also thanked West Yorkshire Police for the protection she had been given amid claims supporters of Mr Galloway’s Workers Party had intimidated her, as she said: ‘Sadly I needed them more than ever.’
The Labour MP added: ‘I’m absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and they’ve voted for hope.’
Meanwhile, senior Tories blamed their second-placed finish on Matt Hancock breaking Covid-19 rules by kissing his married aide.
Amanda Milling, the co-chairman of the Conservative Party, said the former health secretary’s romance with aide Gina Coladangelo ‘was something that came up’ on the doorstep following his resignation last Saturday.
Tory peer and pollster Lord Hayward said Mr Hancock’s behaviour was likely one of the reasons why the party lost, along with Boris Johnson’s failure to sack him.
He said: ‘I think it’s a combination of both sides – it’s not just Matt Hancock, it is the decision of the Prime Minister, because of the apparent delay in taking action.’