It’s best to be honest when reacting to by-elections like Batley and Spen and, if I have a role as a Labour party elder statesman, my advice is let’s admit that today’s result is a narrow escape from disaster, not just for the Labour Party but also for the local community and the country.
The by-election result is being met with a huge sigh of relief across the Labour Party, not least in Keir Starmer’s office, though understandably I doubt anyone in his team will publicly admit to it.
Many of the people of Batley will also be sharing this feeling. They can now hopefully move on from the bitter divisive politics they have seen over the last few weeks and can rest assured by the obvious decency and commitment to her community that shine out of their newly elected MP, Kim Leadbeater.
Of course this by-election wasn’t all about the future of Keir Starmer. A defeat for Labour would have landed the local community with another Tory MP to serve as lobby fodder to vote for Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s next round of austerity, including a real-terms pay cut to our NHS workers.
Boris Johnson would have interpreted a Conservative victory as an endorsement of his government and confirmed that, after the Hancock affair, he can get away with anything and there really is one law for the Tory elite and another for the rest of us.
It is true, however, that the leader of the Labour Party needs to learn some lessons from Batley and Spen and he needs to do so urgently.
Here are five lessons I believe he needs to pick up on.
The first is that Keir, you are the leader of the opposition up against the most corrupt government and lying Prime Minister that this country has ever had, for God’s sake, show some anger.
Whilst Johnson and his crew are handing out lucrative contracts to mates and appointing Tory friends into lucrative high places at taxpayers expense, remember that in places like my constituency 35 per cent of children are growing up in poverty.
Lawyerly outmaneuvering Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions is great but isn’t enough. Get out around the country and call out the Tory scandals that are undermining the decency of our politics.
Second, start painting and fast, the vision of the society that you want us all to create and show how it can be done with a short sharp set of policies. At the heart of this needs to be a big economic offer.