UK’s Labour ekes out win in traditional northern stronghold

LONDON (AP) — Labour leader Keir Starmer breathed a sigh of relief Friday after the party eked out victory in a special election in one of its northern strongholds, easing discontent after a series of poor showings by Britain’s main opposition party.

Starmer praised Kim Leadbeater’s 323-vote triumph in the election to represent the Batley and Spen district of West Yorkshire in the House of Commons as a “fantastic result.” While the margin of victory was far below the 3,525-vote cushion Labour achieved in 2019, polls had suggested the party could lose the seat it has held since 1997.

Starmer, who has led Labour since April 2020, is under pressure after the party posted dismal results in local elections in May, then lost a special election in Hartlepool, which it had held for 62 years. The party is seeking to stop the momentum of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, which made inroads in Labour’s traditional working class strongholds during the 2019 parliamentary elections.

Leadbeater is the sister of Jo Cox, who was the Labour lawmaker for the district when she was murdered in 2016. The campaign in Batley and Spen was a three-way race, with Workers Party candidate George Galloway pulling votes away from Labour.

Leadbeater received 13,296 votes, defeating Conservative Ryan Stephenson at 12,973 and Galloway with 8,264.

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