The high street in Batley, West Yorkhire, which has a by-election to look forward to this week (Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

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This Thursday, the eyes of Westminster will once again fall on a clutch of towns in West Yorkshire – five years after they were hurled into the spotlight by Jo Cox’s murder.

Nestled in hills between Dewsbury and Bradford, Batley and Spen – which is hosting a crucial by-election – voted Tory from its 1983 creation until 1997.

Boundary changes and Tony Blair’s landslide turned it red ever since, but Labour’s majority dropped to a low of 3,525 in 2019.

And with George Galloway challenging Labour, party insiders believe there is a good chance it could go to the Tories.

If it does, that would hand Boris Johnson is second by-election gain at Labour’s hands in two months, and raise questions for Keir Starmer.

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Unlike Hartlepool which fell to the Tories in May, Batley and Spen is not a ‘Red Wall’ seat.

Though solidly red, the area has never had a vast Labour majority and has a history of liking independents. It’s also four very different towns – Batley and Heckmondwike have Labour councillors, Birstall has Tories and Cleckheaton, in the Spen Valley, has Lib Dems.

The seat has the Fox’s biscuits plant, the Mill outlet and legions of bed factories. A major employer is also the Junction 27 retail park by the M62, while there is a row over plans to build a giant Amazon warehouse on green fields near Cleckheaton.

Birstall, up the road from Batley, where we also quizzed residents
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

But despite the level of industry, residents we talked to were afraid of their home being left behind the rest of the country.

Batley and Cleckheaton are four miles apart, but the 271 direct bus runs only five times a day.

Batley and surrounding towns recently got £1.5m, but that is less than £200m given to nearby Dewsbury, while Batley was passed over for the Tories’ Towns Fund.

Here are the conversations people had with us on a recent visit.

For the full list of 16 candidates in the by-election click here.

Sarah Greaves, 54

“I think they’re all a bunch of liars. They all promise the same thing and nothing ever happens, nobody gives a toss about us.

“Look at Batley – it’s just a mess. Disabled access is a massive issue, drugs are a massive issue.

"Disabled access is a massive issue, drugs are a massive issue," said Sarah Greaves
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

“My biggest bugbear on a national issue is the prosecutions of troops. I served in Northern Ireland, my son is going out to the Falklands on Monday. If the Argentinians were to decide they were to take the Falklands again we wouldn’t stand a chance.

“I’ve always stuck with the Conservatives – I like Boris Johnson and I think he’s the best leader we’ve had since Thatcher, he sticks to his word. But I certainly won’t be voting Conservative, put it that way. I’m considering the SDP.”

Rohid Qadeer, 24

“I’ll be voting Labour again – Labour is more for the average working-class compared to the Conservatives.

“George Galloway makes a lot of noise. He’s doing what every future MP should be doing, making noise, but I’m not taking sides.

“I’m from Batley. Batley compared to other places does need some work, it needs some investment. It needs putting some life back into the community.”

Rohid Qadeer told us: "It needs some investment. It needs putting some life back into the community"
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Eileen Overend, 77

“We’re very strange in our house because my husband, who is 82, goes on to my daughters ‘you must vote’, the whole Emmeline Pankhurst story, and this time he’s put his voting thing in the bin. He’s been a Labour man more or less all his life.

“I live in Batley. I think you vote for someone who might do something locally. I will go along the lines of Kim Leadbeater, Jo Cox’s sister. I think she’s done quite a lot for the community.

Eileen Overend said her husband won't be voting Labour this time
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

“I don’t know if I would vote Labour if it was a national thing but locally I will vote Labour.

“I liked Nigel Farage’s UKIP but I think they were about Brexit and now they’ve disappeared. Boris Johnson seems to be getting it from the media right now – people are saying things about the Covid response being slow. I don’t think anybody could have done any better.”

Claire Fox, 47

“I was for UKIP. I’m not sure if I’ll be voting this time – if I was I’d probably vote for Kim.

“Everybody liked Jo, she was a good MP and she’s taking up her sister’s work. I think she will do pretty good.

“I live in Batley Carr. I want to stop lads in cars racing around everywhere, stop the drug dealers and get the roads and pavements sorted.

“Everybody liked Jo, she was a good MP and she’s taking up her sister’s work" said Claire Fox
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

“I want our MP to make Britain how it was when I was a kid. If I do vote I think I will do Labour. I think they’ve learned from experience with all this Covid going on.

“I had better not say what I think of Boris Johnson, it would be too rude. I’ve worked in the supermarket all through the pandemic and I don’t think he’s done it right with Covid at all.”

Linda Denton, 71

“There’s far too many candidates who’ve put their names down.

“I am leaning Conservative because of what’s happened with Covid. People are criticising Boris Johnson but nobody has done it before and hopefully we will get through it, and if anything happens again, it’s another government – see what they do.

“I know the Labour girl and think she’s wonderful but with what he’s done with Covid I think it’s amazing.

“I have voted for the Green Party and the Conservative before. On George Galloway, I would rather you don’t write my comments down!”

Linda Denton will be voting Conservative
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Shahin Kiarostami, 47

“I will vote for George Galloway. He came into my shop and talked about things and we were thinking the same. We need that for the Asian community. People are talking about problems in this area and he says we need something changed.

“I’ve never voted, but many Asian people talk to me about him, they say he’s a real man, he’s not just talk.

“This area now is very busy. The worst thing is the housing. Rents are going high because too many people are coming to Dewsbury for a job.

“I own a pizza restaurant in Batley, Oasis, we’ve been here for 16 years. There have been big changes.

“Now things are good, we don’t have a problem, but we need something new again. When something is good you want it to be better.”

"They say he’s a real man, he’s not just talk," Shahin Kiarostami said of George Galloway
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Selina Morris, 48

“I will vote for whoever’s doing the spending on the Batley area. I would probably go with Kim, generally it’s been the Conservatives. I voted Conservative because my parents did so I kind of followed that as far as I can remember.

“I don’t think any of them have been as prolific as they could have – knocking on doors instead of shoving leaflets through. I would like to see them do rallies.

“I want an MP to look at roads and crossings near schools – I live near Heckmondwike Grammar School and it’s a nightmare.

“And trying to get communities together, instead of all the racial stuff, get people to understand other religions without pointing fingers. I think there is a lot of racism here, as there is everywhere.

“I will vote for whoever’s doing the spending on the Batley area," said Selina Morris
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

“There were a lot of people that were quite upset about what happened to Jo and the fact the guy who killed her was out on the streets.

“I voted for Brexit. I think I voted hastily for that because it wasn’t explained to us what the impact would be on imports and exports and what would happen. There’s a lot of local businesses that have really suffered from Brexit.

“If a lot of people are not voting, Emmeline Pankhurst would be turning in her grave."

Ian Bonas, 48

“I think Labour will win it. I don’t know if I will vote – I’ve voted before but there’s too many elections now, we only had the council election two months ago.

“I will probably vote Labour because I don’t like the Conservative candidate – he’s not a local guy. We’ve had some weird candidates trying to get our votes – I think [Kim] will win it on her name.

Ian Bonas said he was a huge fan of Brexit – but would spurn the Tories due to their candidate
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

“I did vote Conservative last time. I think Brexit is one of the best things we’ve ever done, it’s going to be a federal Europe.

“Boris Johnson has sort of muddled it up – he’s fiddling it around and the EU are complaining they don’t agree with what he wants to do. I reckon it will be about five or 10 years before it gets sorted out.

“He’s sort of fudged it – it’s ‘all sorted out’ but it hasn’t been, like Northern Ireland. They want to keep it in Europe but they don’t want it in Europe.”