Polling guru Curtice issues damning Brexit warning to Starmer before crunch by-election

Labour 'has nothing to say' to patriotic voters says MP

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The crucial by-election was triggered following a decision from Labour MP Tracy Brabin to quit Westminster following her election as the first mayor of West Yorkshire earlier this month. Ms Brabin had been Labour’s MP in Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire – like Hartlepool another marginal Red Wall seat – since 2016. The seat had been represented by Jo Cox until she was shot and stabbed by a far-right extremist in June 2016. Last month, Labour announced selected Kim Leadbeater, the sister of Jo Cox, as its candidate for the constituency’s by-election.

Labour and Sir Keir will be desperate for victory in the upcoming vote following a crushing defeat in the Hartlepool by-election, a seat it had held since 1974 when it was first introduced.

But a Survation poll of 323 adults in the constituency from June 9-17 (after “undecided” and “refused” removed) put the Tories in the lead on 47 percent, up 11 percent from its general election vote share, with Labour back on 41 percent.

For another question in the same poll, which had a total of 510 respondents, just 17 percent said they trust Sir Keir on Brexit, compared to 55 percent for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Similar to Hartlepool, Batley and Spen was a heavy Vote Leave constituency during the Brexit referendum of June 2016, with 59.6 percent in favour of the UK leaving the European Union.

Polling guru Sir John Curtice, who is also a Politics Professor at the University of Strathclyde, told Express.co.uk: “What has been clear is saying nothing about Brexit, which Labour has been doing, doesn’t help to reconnect with Leave voters.

“Judging from the recent Hartlepool by-election, is Labour has not had much success in reconnecting with Leave voters.

“It is still very reliant on Remain voters, the Brexit divide is still there, and Labour has not had much success winning lack voters, and the minority in Batley-and-Spen would underline that.”

Sir John added: “Starmer’s stance towards the trade deal between the UK and EU was clear – he said we will vote for it and Brexit is done but will criticise the Government for its implementation.

“On several occasions during Prime Minister’s Questions, he could have gone on to attack Brexit as there were several elements of the implementation that were hitting the headlines, but in the most part he has avoided that.

“Labour is hoping politics goes back to an argument of Left vs Right and then they can attack the Government on that, but the problem is Brexit continues to shape the way the public is voting.

“Labour’s silence on Brexit has not reaped the dividend the party was hoping for.”

The polling guru also warned huge question marks will be raised over Sir Keir’s leadership of Labour should the party suffer a crushing defeat in the Batley and Spen by-election.

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He added Sir Keir may not come under immediate pressure, but questioned his political leadership qualities and claimed he has not been able to establish a clear identity for Labour since he took over from Jeremy Corbyn.

Sir John warned: “If Labour loses the Batley and Spen by-election, the question marks around Keir Starmer’s leadership are not going to be reduced.

“He is a very good, clever and competent lawyer, which he demonstrates in PMQs, and is incisive with detail in a way the Prime Minister is the complete opposite.

“The craft of being a good lawyer is to promote a brief that has been written by your client, but the job of a political leader is to write your own brief.

“The question people are beginning to ask is does Sir Keir have a vision that he is able to communicate?

“The defence is, in the midst of a pandemic, it has been difficult for Labour to hold people’s attention and with the vaccination programme going so well, the Government has been able to recover from the difficulties of last autumn.

“But what is clear are the limitations of attacking the Government and suddenly when a Government stops being so incompetent, then you are in trouble because voters will go back to the Government.”

The political expert concluded: “If Labour loses this by-election, Starmer will not get challenged in the short term but clearly the pressure on him between now and the end of the year to come up with a challenge to the Government that will attract the attention of the voters.

“The public knows the party isn’t led by Jeremy Corbyn anymore, but they still have no idea what it stands for.”

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