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.

its very beginning, the heart of the Labour Party’s mission was the belief that
it is working people who create the wealth of this country and it is our task
to ensure they receive a fair distribution of it. This chimed so well with the
value of fairness held so deeply by working class people.

let’s make it clear that under Labour workers will get their fair share of the
wealth they create with decent wages and a minimum earnings guarantee to ensure
nobody lives in poverty, and that they will have a say in the decision making
at work.

it clear that Labour will not tolerate the rich friends of the Tories and
corporations getting away with avoiding their taxes and not paying their way.

explain how we will lead the country out of the pandemic – by ending
privatisation of the NHS, ensuring NHS workers get the full pay rise they
deserve and setting up a National Social Care
Service to match the NHS.

immediately start using every method the party can lay its hands on to communicate
the urgency of the next crisis – climate change. Young people get this, so we
need to bring local communities together engaging all ages and help them to
create their local climate change plans. Make this a central mission of our

and finally, respect your party members. Engage with them, put a stop to the
bullying of local parties by the party’s bureaucracy, and allow Anneliese Dodds
to make the recently announced
policy review
a real exercise in creative thinking, building on the
last manifestos.

by appointing several of the young left into the shadow cabinet and and
restoring the whip to Jeremy Corbyn, you can show that you are above petty
personal politics and fulfill your promise to unite the party.

John McDonnell is the Labour MP for
Hayes and Harlington and former shadow chancellor

Link to Instagram Link to Twitter Link to YouTube Link to Facebook Link to LinkedIn Link to Snapchat Close Fax Website Location Phone Email Calendar Building Search