Batley and Spen by-election saw violence, intimidation and fake leaflets. Politics shouldn't be like that – Daniel Johnson MSP

The recent by-election in Batley and Spen exposed all the worst elements of political campaigning in 2021.

Sunday, 4th July 2021, 4:45 pm
Labour's Kim Leadbeater won the Batley and Spen by-election with a majority of just 323 votes (Picture: Oli Scarrff/AFP via Getty Images)

Things got ugly and violent and dirty tricks were rife. A Labour canvasser was punched in the head and egged.

False leaflets made to look official were circulated to stoke racial tensions.

Police were called on numerous occasions after threats against candidates, especially Kim Leadbeater, who had them there while canvassing.

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We should challenge any normalisation of having police required for canvassing and constituent engagement to take place.

Our democracy in action should not need to be done with police in attendance due to threats.

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It should never be the norm but the signs for the future are worrying.

All this is made all the more distressing given the sister of Kim Leadbeater, Jo Cox, was targeted and assassinated on the street while undertaking her duties as an MP by a constituent in 2016.

Kim's victory is not just a Labour hold. It is a powerful signal that being a strong community campaigner can make the difference. Let's try to ensure that we make politics about principle again.

There will always be disagreement in politics but we have to make sure that we do not confuse disagreement for hatred.

At the last election my constituency office was daubed with paint. This of course is not comparable to the tensions experienced during the Batley and Spen by-election but there is always the worry that an escalation of behaviour like that becomes the norm.

Politics shouldn’t be like that. We can do better.

Daniel Johnson is Scottish Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern

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