At long last, the bloody, bruising and bitter Batley and Spen by-election is at an end. After eight weeks of campaigning, replete with controversy and allegations of harassment, the results will be finally declared at 5am on Friday morning in this Labour held-seat facing a stiff Tory challenge.
If Keir Starmer's party loses tomorrow it will be their third by-election loss in the same number of months. Today's Times carries a front page story that Starmer's deputy Angela Rayner is preparing a leadership challenge, with MPs close to the latter allegedly canvassing support among parliamentary colleagues and trade unions. Rayner herself has come out and publicly tried to distance herself from the story but it has done little, if anything, to quieten rumours of a challenge if Batley goes blue.
Earlier today George Eaton of the New Statesman reported that the Socialist Campaign Group had met last night and concluded that they could not get the 40 MP nominations needed to challenge Starmer but that 'around' six to seven members 'are prepared to back Angela Rayner.'
Coincidentally Labour MP Navendu Mishra had, just hours earlier, shared an image of a dinner he had last night with five other members of the Socialist Campaign Group. Mishra, who this week publicly attacked his own party for distributing a controversial leaflet featuring Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, tweeted a picture of the six of them, smiles aplenty, with the pithy caption 'Good to catch up with comrades' and an obligatory beer emoji and Labour red rose.
— Navendu Mishra (@NavPMishra) June 30, 2021
Good to catch up with comrades 🍺🌹 pic.twitter.com/OYiquDFbCm
The other five included current frontbencher Marsha de Cordova, 2019 new girls Kim Johnson and Rachel Hopkins and of course a grim-faced Sam Tarry, one of Rayner's staunchest allies who ran her deputy leadership campaign.
Whereas previous Labour plotters have opted for a curry house (see Tom Watson in 2006) or a fancy Islington restaurant (Tony and Gordon at Granita in 1994) the venue of choice for the 'socialist six' appears to be the Civil Service Club, a somewhat more public choice given its Whitehall location.
Judging by a look at the club's online price list, Mishra seems to have plumped for the £4.75 warmed cherry pie while de Cordova either opted for the same or the homemade crumble of the day, dripping with custard and washed down with red wine.
With the Batley result set to come in early on Friday morning, Starmer will be hoping he too doesn't end up on the menu.