Keir Starmer will not resign as Labour leader if his party loses the Batley and Spen by-election.
After days of speculation about his reaction to a possible Tory victory in the Labour-held West Yorkshire seat, his spokesman sent a clear signal that Starmer intends to tough out any defeat on Thursday.
“Keir is not going to resign. 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 spokesperson said.
“What the British people are worried about at the moment is their job, their kids, and the future of their country.”
One Survation poll has put the Tories in first place in Batley, Labour in second and George Galloway in third.
The spokesperson added that Labour’s Kim Leadbeater, who is the sister of the late Jo Cox who held the seat, was “a fantastic candidate”, but stressed the constituency “has always been a marginal seat”.
“We know that we’ve got to prove ourselves to the people of Batley and Spen, and demonstrate we’re listening. We’ve never taken the people of Batley and Spen for granted.”
Starmer succeeded Jeremy Corbyn in April 2020, winning the leadership by a landslide.
But although he narrowed the gap with the Tories through the year, the party is now trailing regularly in national polls by more than 10 points.
The spokesman said Starmer had an “absolute determination” to unite the Labour Party and form a government after the 2024 general election.
Their remarks came as a new YouGov/SkyNews poll found that almost seven in ten Labour Party members believe that Andy Burnham would make a better leader than Starmer.
Among sitting Labour MPs eligible to stand for the leadership, the poll found that Yvette Cooper would get the highest level of support.
Some 35% of members said that the home affairs select committee chair would get their first preference.
Lisa Nandy would win the support of 13%, while 12% said they would give deputy leader Angela Rayner their first preference. Former leadership challenger Rebecca Long-Bailey would get 11% and Richard Burgon 6%.
Cooper, a former minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, was asked on Tuesday what the impact would be of a by-election loss on Starmer’s position. She told the BBC: “That’s a ultimately a discussion that we will have afterwards.”
The YouGov poll found that 50% of Labour members in the north of England felt he should resign if the party loses the by-election, compared to 42% who said he should stay.