Sir Keir Starmer has declared Labour “is coming home” after his party won the Batley and Spen by-election.
The party leader joined new MP Kim Leadbeater in the West Yorkshire constituency on Friday following her victory by 323 votes over the Conservatives.
The result came as a relief to Sir Keir after the party’s damaging loss in the Hartlepool by-election in May which had piled pressure on him.
He said: “My message is, when the Labour Party sticks to its core values, is rooted in its communities and pulls together, we can win just as we’ve won here.
“This is the start, Labour is back.”
He also rallied supporters in the constituency by drawing on the lyrics of the Three Lions song England fans have been belting out during Euro 2020 saying: “This is just the start. I want many more days like this. Labour is coming home.”
Sir Keir paid tribute to the “incredible courage” of Ms Leadbeater in standing in the place where her sister, the MP Jo Cox, was murdered in 2016.
The Labour leader also acknowledged the party’s vote had been split by the campaign of George Galloway who worked to win over the constituency’s Muslim voters.
Starmer has weathered a disappointing set of local election results, including a defeat in the Hartlepool by-election and a poor showing in last month’s Chesham and Amersham contest with the Liberal Democrats winning the seat.
Ms Leadbeater secured the Batley and Spen seat which Labour held at the 2019 general election.
The Conservatives admitted their campaign had been hit in the final days by the fall out from the Matt Hancock affair.
Earlier an emotional Ms Leadbeater, who thanked the police for their protection during the campaign, said she would seek to heal the divisions that had been opened up in the constituency.
“If I can be half the MP Jo (Cox) was I know I will do her proud and I will do my family proud,” she said.