Richard North, 03/07/2021  

In politics, making predictions is never wise: there are too many variables, not enough data and much uncertainty. And, for a lowly blogger, there is always someone waiting in the wings to do the "nah, nah, you got it wrong!" number, and you can bet that some kind soul will resuscitate the offending post, years later, as evidence of your fallibility.

Thus, for the Batley and Spen result, I chose my words carefully. I did not "rule out" a narrow win for Kim Leadbeater. Where I got it wrong was in putting either the Tories or the Lib-Dems in second place. In fact, the Tory candidate, Ryan Stephenson, came second, with the Lib-Dems shunted down into fourth place. Galloway came third.

In making my "non-prediction", I was misled by two things. Firstly, I mistook the strong presence of Lib-Dem posters in the constituency as an indication of activity, I should have listened to Ed Davey, who said that his party was not going to contest the seat.

Secondly, I assumed that the late prediction of a record turnout, from an apparently reliable source, to be more firmly based than it was. Instead of the "around 70 percent", it actually came in at 47.6 percent – on the low side but well within the normal range for by-elections.

There, I should have trusted my own judgement. I had expected a low[ish] turnout and the report of what would have been a near-record for a by-election potentially changed the dynamics of the contest. Given that I was expecting the "Hancock effect" to kick on, I assumed there must have been a sizeable Tory defection to the Lib-Dems.

So, we now know the result – but how did Leadbeater win? And why was her margin of 323 votes so slender, having harvested 13,296 votes against Stephenson's 12,973 – with Galloway taking 8,264?

To that first, beguilingly simply question, you will struggle to find an answer in the legacy media, or from any of the hordes of political analysists who have written on the subject.

My initial thoughts on this are that Labour didn't win the election. The Tories lost it. And it is possible to apply some tentative arithmetic, based on the 2019 general election figures. Received wisdom here suggests that, in addition to the 19,000-odd cast for the Tory candidate, there were potentially another 8,000 available which were actually cast for the "Heavy Woollen" independent and the Brexit Party. That puts the "peak Tory" vote at 27,000 on a turnout of 66.5 percent.

Assuming that voting patterns had remained the same for the by-election,– and given that neither the independent nor the Brexit Party were fielding candidates – one can calculate on the basis of the reduced turnout of 47.6 percent that the "peak Tory" vote could have been around 19,000. In fact – as we know – Stephenson garnered just under 13,000. In effect, 6,000 potential Tory votes went AWOL.

On the Labour side - if we add in the Greens, who did not field a candidate in the by-election – the "peak Labour" figure for the general was around 23,000. That signifies, amongst other things, that the Tories should have won. But, if that figure is transposed to the by-election on a pro-rate basis to take account of the reduced turnout, the vote should have come to just over 16,000. Leadbeater should have lost by around 3,000 votes.

However, if we take it that the votes of both Leadbeater and Galloway came from the same potential Labour pool in the by-election, the actual "Labour" vote cast was just over 21,000. In effect, another 5,000 Labour-supporting voters joined the fray last Thursday. Despite Galloway's intervention, enough of those "extra" votes went to Leadbeater for her to win the seat.

Obviously, this is a very simplistic model, for which all sorts of assumptions are made, but the margins are sufficient to offer a plausible explanation of what happened on Thursday. Fewer Tories turned out than expected and, while more than expected "Labour" supporters voted, not quite enough defected to Galloway to deprive Leadbeater of her win.

As to the reason why Galloway didn't achieve his objective of taking Leadbeater out of the race, allowing the Tories to take the seat, it does seem that his appeal was confined largely (if not entirely) to Muslims of Kashmiri origin. It very much looks as if the Indians stayed with Leadbeater.

Support for this supposition comes from an observation by the Labour team that most of the votes came from the Batley and Heckmondwike wards – areas in which the Muslim communities are clustered. Looking at the victory pictures, courtesy of the BBC (above), if you take away the media, Starmer's staff and his protection detail, almost all the people surrounding Leadbeater appear to Indians rather than Kashmiris.

Assuming that this analysis stands up, then the implications are quite profound. In effect, Leadbeater won this by-election on the basis of the south Asian vote – with the Indian Muslims forming the larger part of her support – against a predominantly white Tory vote. This failed to turn out in enough numbers to take the seat, reduced by the "Hancock effect" and a more general disillusionment with the Johnson administration.

Unfortunately, there are not enough data precisely to quantify the ethnic mix in the respective votes, but it is reasonable assert that south Asian politics played a significant rile in this election, and the result turned on the Muslim vote. To that extent, the choice of the MP in an English constituency was decided by the ethnic vote.

As for the Indian Vohra community, whose votes seemed to have been decisive, it is unlikely that its members were particularly attracted by Galloway's pro-Kashmir pitch and are unlikely to be as passionate about "Palestine" as this retard.

But, looking further at the Muslim Indian response to Modi, I came across this and this, in the Guardian of all places. The latter article has Modi being "blamed for the death of 2,000 Muslims in India".

It is quite possible that the Labour publishing that leaflet showing Johnson talking to Modi, alongside the message: "Don’t risk a Tory MP who is not on your side", had a significant effect on the outcome of the by-election, keeping the Vohra community on-side.

If that was the case, where the Tories are actively courting Indian communities in the UK in order to further Johnson's ambitions for a trade deal with India – the price of which will undoubtedly be easing immigration from India – then this represents a further step in the polarisation of English politics on ethnic lines, which I observed emerging in the 2019 general election campaign, where Labour supports the Muslim communities and the Tories support the Hindu (and Sikh) Indians.

As electoral politics have evolved in this country, elections now turn on a limited number of marginal seats and with close on three million voters of south Asian origin, split between Indian origin and, largely, Muslims of Kasmiri origin – clustered in as many as 80 marginal seats, the stance of the respective parties on south Asia politics could decide the outcome of future general elections.

If for some, this seems far-fetched, then the Batley and Spen by-election points the way, where the campaigning was dominated by south Asian politics, which also heavily influenced if not actually decided the outcome.

With tedious predictability though, this is an issue which neither the media nor the politicians are prepared to discuss openly, if at all. Instead, we have the ineffably dim Leadbetter bleating about Batley and Spen needing an MP "who can unite people and bring them together" – despite a campaign which has been more than usually decisive, exacerbating wounds which are not going to heal.

As for the longer-term implications, once the (still) majority white population begins to realise that they have been thrown under the proverbial bus by power-hungry parties manipulating the ethnic vote to achieve their aims, we can probably expect a political realignment, the like of which one dreads to imagine.

Then, when future histories are written, the Batley and Spen by-election will have a special place as a point when the political consensus lurched closer to collapse.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

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