23:08 GMT12 June 2021
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    Bookmakers have Conservative candidate Ryan Stephenson as odds-on favourite to beat Labour's choice Kim Leadbeater on 1 July, in a possible repeat of the 6 May shock Tory win in the north-eastern Hartlepool seat.

    Labour is in "trouble" in the latest parliamentary by-election, but party members have been warned not to talk about it for fear of being dubbed defeatist.

    Grass-roots Labour activist Crispin Flintoff, organiser of the Stand Up for Labour fundraising comedy shows, told an online audience of some 400 people he had been warned by fellow party members that the left would be blamed for defeat in Batley and Spen if they even discussed problems with Labour’s campaign there.

    Broadcaster and political veteran George Galloway, who is standing for his recently-formed Workers' Party in the West Yorkshire seat, tweeted a clip of Flintoff's Sunday morning Not the Andrew Marr Show webcast.

    Flintoff said he had tried to contact at least 15 party members in the constituency, but "none of them want to speak about what's happening in Batley and Spen. There seems to have been a silencing on the whole issue of the by-election and what's happening".

    But Flintoff said "one or two" local party campaigners had told him off the record that "it doesn't seem that Labour's doing particularly well up there, and I expect that there may well be trouble for Labour."

    "I've been told in a kind of warning that if people on the Left are seen to disrupt the campaign, then we may well be blamed for any defeat that happens", Flintoff revealed. 

    Bookmakers currently have Conservative candidate Ryan Stephenson as odds-on favourite to beat Labour's choice Kim Leadbeater on 1 July, in what could be a repeat of the 6 May shock Tory win in the north-eastern Hartlepool seat that Labour had held since the 1960s.

    Leadbeater is the sister of former constituency MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in 2016 by a right-wing extremist during the campaign for the referendum on European Union membership. She had only joined Labour weeks before she was "parachuted in", despite party rules stating prospective candidates must be members for at least a year beforehand.

    ​The Tories now stand to gain from local man Paul Halloran’s decision after talks with libertarian Reclaim Party leader Laurence Fox not to stand in the election so as not to split the vote against Labour. Halloran won over 12 percent of the vote there in the 2019 general election.

    “It has been made clear to both of us that many people in Batley and Spen are fed up with the Labour Party", Fox said in a joint statement with Halloran on Saturday. “The Labour Party have lost their way. We cannot in good conscience stand and risk splitting the vote and condemning Batley and Spen to any more years of Labour control".

    ​"I intend, alongside Laurence Fox and the Reclaim Party, to hold all the candidates to account over the next month and beyond", Halloran said, insisting he would be a voice for murdered local man Bradley Gledhill and the unnamed Batley Grammar School teacher recently sacked for allegedly using cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a lesson.

    Workers' Party leader Galloway announced his candidacy in May with the express intention of trying to force Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer out of the top spot. Galloway, the former anti-war Respect Party MP for nearby Bradford West, could potentially strip a significant portion of the Muslim vote away from Labour.

    Related:

    George Galloway Suspends Election Campaign After New Scots 'Nationalist Threats'
    Labour Reportedly Berates 'Anti-Immigrant Voters' for Backing Tories in Hartlepool By-Election
    ‘Shut the F*** Up!’ Labour MP’s ‘Solidarity’ Message to Comrades Over Starmer Policy Meeting
    Tags:
    George Galloway, UK Conservative Party, Bradford, Leeds, Yorkshire, Jo Cox, Keir Starmer, UK Labour Party
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