Now that the by-election in the Batley and Spen constituency is over let us remember the terrible reason why it was held. The brutal murder of Jo Cox MP, a wonderful public representative killed by a racist coward while working to do her best for all her constituents. #BelikeJo
— Brendan Cox (@MrBrendanCox) October 20, 2016
People in Batley and Spen went to the polls to elect a successor to Jo Cox MP, who was killed in her constituency a week before the EU referendum. Cox, 41, was shot and stabbed outside Birstall library, West Yorkshire, where she was scheduled to hold a constituency surgery.
Polls in the resulting by-election opened at 7am on Thursday. They will close at 10pm, with the vote count taking place at Cathedral House in Huddersfield. The result is expected in the early hours of Friday. Tracy Brabin, an actor and television writer, was selected as Labour’s candidate last month by constituency party members.
The Conservatives, Greens, UKIP and the Liberal Democrats declared that they would not field a candidate as a mark of respect to Cox, leaving the path clear for a Labour win. Brabin, however, is not running unopposed. In a deliberate attempt to disrespect Jo Cox’s memory nine fringe candidates – many from far-right parties – have declared they will stand, including 23-year-old Jack Buckby for Liberty GB, Therese Hirst for the English Democrats, David Furness for the BNP and Richard Edmonds for the National Front.
But Brabin said nothing could be taken for granted and that the media should be mindful of giving oxygen to some of her opponents. “Here in Batley and Spen people saw what had happened as a tragedy, but there are people out there who see it as an opportunity,” said Brabin of her far-right rivals. “It’s really heartbreaking actually.” Brabin, who was a friend of Cox’s, has run a campaign focused on community cohesion. She is also calling for improved transport links to nearby Bradford and Leeds, and stopping the downgrading of Dewsbury hospital.
She played Tricia Armstrong in Coronation Street from 1994-97, Roxy Drake in EastEnders in 2001 and Carole in Emmerdale in 2014. Brabin has also written for shows including Heartbeat, Shameless, Family Affairs, Crossroads and Hollyoaks. In the four months between Cox’s death and polling day, the MP’s constituency staff have been working to support the area’s population of 80,000 under the supervision of Holly Lynch, Labour MP for neighbouring Halifax.
Thomas Mair, 53, of Birstall, has been charged with the murder of Cox and is scheduled to go on trial in November.
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