SIR KEIR Starmer has no intention of resigning even if Labour fails to win a key by-election – despite two in five party members wanting him to stand down if the contest is lost.
A YouGov poll for Sky News found that as many as four in 10 Labour members would want the leader to step aside if the party fails to win the Batley and Spen by-election on Thursday.
But Sir Keir’s spokesman has insisted his leadership is based on a long-term plan and confirmed the leader will not be standing down, even if the party fails to win the West Yorkshire constituency it has held since 1997.
There is speculation that the Conservatives could take the seat, which would be a huge blow to Sir Keir’s leadership following the failure to win the Hartlepool by-election last month and polled poorly in the Chesham and Amersham by-election.
Labour officials are pessimistic about the chances of defending the former seat of Jo Cox, who was murdered in the constituency in 2016.
A Survation poll published last week put the Tories on 47%, up 11% from the 2019 general election, while Labour was on 43%.
The Batley and Spen by-election was triggered after Tracy Brabin, who won the seat for Labour in 2019 with a 3,525 majority over the Conservatives, was elected as the mayor of West Yorkshire in May.
Sir Keir’s spokesman played down the prospect of a victory by saying it “has always been a marginal seat” and that winning “was always going to be challenging”.
“Keir is not going to resign,” he added.
He said: “Keir has been absolutely clear that this is a four-year path to get back into power and he is determined to lead the party into the next general election and to take us back into Government.”
The YouGov poll also found that 48% of party members would back Sir Keir to remain in place regardless of the by-election result, according to the survey of 871 members conducted over the past week, which had the remaining 11% as undecided over his fate.
The research also suggested that 69% of Labour members would prefer Andy Burnham as leader, despite the Greater Manchester mayor no longer being an MP and therefore being unable to immediately challenge Sir Keir in any contest.
Mr Burnham has been seen as a strong voice standing up to Boris Johnson’s lockdown rules and business support and was also embroiled in a row with Nicola Sturgeon over a travel ban between part of north west England and Scotland, leading to a u-turn by the Scottish Government.
Though Mr Burnham is the clear favourite, Home Affairs Committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper is the favourite current MP in the event of a sudden leadership contest.
Some 35% of members said she would be their first preference, with shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy on 13% and deputy leader Angela Rayner on 12%.
There is a prospect of a backbench revolt if Batley and Spen is lost but it is unclear if any challenger would be able to secure the support of the 40 Labour MPs needed to trigger a leadership contest.