Labour’s Tracy Brabin wins Batley and Spen byelection to succeed Jo Cox


New Labour MP Tracy Brabin at the count in Batley and Spen. Photograph: Craig Brough/Reuters

Tracy Brabin has been elected as MP for the constituency of Batley and Spen, succeeding Jo Cox, who was killed in her constituency a week before the EU referendum.

Brabin, an actor and television writer, was elected with 85% of the vote on a 26% turnout, with all of the nine candidates standing against her losing their deposits.

The Conservatives, Greens, Ukip and the Liberal Democrats had declared that they would not field a candidate as a mark of respect to Cox, leaving the path clear for a Labour win.

Nine fringe candidates – many from far-right parties – did stand. Therese Hirst for the English Democrats came second with 969 votes. The BNP’s David Furness was third with 548.

Speaking over heckles from her opponents at the count centre in Huddersfield, Brabin said: “I want to start by thanking the wonderful people of Batley and Spen – my home community that I’m so proud of. This has been a difficult experience for all of us, and tonight is a bitter-sweet occasion for me. That this byelection has had to take place at all is a tragedy.”

She paid tribute to the mainstream parties for “recognising the deeply sad nature” of the byelection and deciding not to stand. She said she had met many people who did not usually vote Labour, but had done so this time as “a reaction to some of the fringe parties who chose to try and use this tragic byelection as an opportunity to sow division”.

Brabin, who was a friend of Cox, ran a campaign focused on community cohesion, in recognition of the unusual nature of the byelection. She also called for improved transport links to nearby Bradford and Leeds, and stopping the downgrading of Dewsbury hospital.

The 55-year-old grew up in a council flat in Howden Clough in the constituency and her mother ran Betty’s cafe, a Birstall institution. She attended Heckmondwike grammar school before studying drama at Loughborough University. Brabin later completed an MA in screenwriting at the London College of Communication in 2001.

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.

It was Jo Cox who first suggested to Brabin that she stand for parliament, while they were campaigning together ahead of the 2015 general election. “While we were going door knocking, she said, ‘Tracy you should think about being an MP’,” Brabin told the Guardian last month. “The irony is horrid, isn’t it?”

Cox, 41, was killed outside Birstall library, where she was scheduled to hold a constituency surgery, on 16 June. Local man Thomas Mair has been charged with her murder and is scheduled to go on trial in November.

Cox had been an MP for only 13 months, having replaced Mike Wood as Labour MP for Batley and Spen in the 2015 general election, where she increased her party’s majority to 6,057. Wood took the constituency from the Conservatives in 1997.

Henry Mayhew, a business consultant who stood for Ukip in West Ham in 2005, said he stood as an independent candidate in protest against the decision by the major parties not to contest the seat. While the results were read, he wore a t-shirt reading: “Democracy, this ain’t.”

“It’s an appalling situation,” said Mayhew, who is the son of Patrick Mayhew, who served as Northern Ireland secretary between 1992 and 1997. “We’ve never had this before. We’ve had a number of assassinations of MPs since the second world war and every single time we’ve had a festival of democracy after that. How can you honour a democrat by cancelling democracy?”

The count in Witney, where Conservative candidate Robert Court hopes to succeed David Cameron, is still underway.

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