Batley and Spen by-election the latest in constituency's unusual poll history - The Yorkshire Post says

Pundits will be turning their gaze towards Batley and Spen after it was announced that the constituency’s by-election is due to take place on July 1.

Cleckheaton Town Hall, in the Batley and Spen constituency. Picture: Jim Fitton.
Cleckheaton Town Hall, in the Batley and Spen constituency. Picture: Jim Fitton.

That effectively gives candidates a month to prove their worth despite the contest’s unsettling context - the last by-election was sparked by the murder of Labour’s Jo Cox, the fifth anniversary of which is two weeks before polling day.

It comes after the Tories took Hartlepool, the latest in a number of so-called “red wall” seats turning blue in recent years.

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But on this occasion Jo Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, is contesting the seat. If her work since her sibling’s death is anything to go by, this should bestow a degree of decorum on what could have otherwise have been a vicious battle as Labour attempt to beat the Conservatives’ Ryan Stephenson, a Leeds councillor focused on overturning former MP Tracy Brabin’s slim majority.

One thing that may hamper campaigning is the Indian variant of coronavirus - the Government has advised against all but essential travel in Kirklees as it emerged the district was one of eight hardest-hit areas.

This makes it another unusual election in a constituency that has seen its fair share of those - this is its fifth Parliamentary election in just six years.

But while the national press may clamour over a “red wall” battle, Batley and Spen is more complicated. After its last boundary change in 1983, Conservative Elizabeth Peacock was its incumbent for 14 years, so Hartlepool it is not.

This time, though, locals in heritage-proud Spen may view the Government’s new planning proposals with deep suspicion.