Kim Leadbeater hung on to the West Yorkshire seat (Image: PA)

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Labour has pulled off a stunning victory in the Batley and Spen by-election race after holding the seat by 323 votes.

Kim Leadbeater, sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, hung on to the West Yorkshire seat for Keir Starmer's party with 13,246 votes to Conservative Ryan Stephenson's 12,973 in an astonishingly close-run contest.

Maverick left-winger George Galloway, who stood as a candidate for the Workers Party, took just 8,265.

The shock result for Labour comes after the bookies had the Tories odds on favourite for weeks, with the odds shortening only in the final few hours of the campaign.

The news will end speculation Mr Starmer may be ousted as leader by a rival, following reports Angela Rayner was preparing to challenge him – something the Deputy Leader strongly denies.

“I’m absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and they’ve voted for hope," said Ms Leadbeater.

She thanked her family saying “without them I could not have got through the last five years nevermind the last five weeks.”

Mr Starmer said the Batley and Spen by-election was “fantastic result for the brilliant and brave” Kim Leadbeater.

“Kim ran a positive campaign of hope, in the face of division,” he said.

“She will be an outstanding Labour MP for Batley and Spen.”

Allies of Mr Starmer have called on his critics from the Labour left to back the Leader.

Ryan Stephenson pictured with prime minister Boris Johnson (Image: The Conservative party)

"“An incredible result given the circumstances of Galloway but a vindication of a brilliant candidate and super campaign masterminded by Holly Lynch MP and party staff," said a senior Labour source. "Nasty division has been rejected. Maybe now a certain deputy leader will stop leaking leadership challenges and get behind Keir.”

Another Labour source added: "‘Everyone’s being calling this a referendum on Keir’s leadership. Well we’ve won – bucked the trend, held onto this marginal seat and advanced in Tory areas. A fantastic result."

It also marks the end of a divisive campaign, which saw Ms Leadbeater targeted for harassment and intimidation.

The bitterly-fought battle was also peppered by accusations of racism, homophobia, fake leaflets and claims of dirty tricks.

The by-election was triggered after the former MP and ex-Coronation Street actress Tracy Brabin won the race to become West Yorkshire Mayor in May's local elections.

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