THE husband of former MP Jo Cox has welcomed the fact that far-right candidates lost their deposits in the West Yorkshire by-election triggered by her killing.
Former Coronation Street actress Tracy Brabin was elected Mrs Cox’s successor as Labour MP for Batley and Spen with an overwhelming 86% of the vote, in what she described as a victory for “hope and unity”.
Other mainstream parties did not stand in the by-election in the West Yorkshire seat, but Ms Brabin faced a challenge from nine independents and fringe candidates, including the hard-right National Front and British National Party.
Her acceptance speech - which included a warm tribute to Mrs Cox, who died after being shot and stabbed outside her constituency office in June - was greeted by noisy heckling from supporters of some of the defeated candidates, who all lost their £500 deposits after failing to reach 5% of the vote.
Congratulating Ms Brabin on her victory, Brendan Cox tweeted: “Great to see all the purveyors of hate lose their deposits.”
Earlier in the day he had urged the people of the constituency to use their votes to “show the world that hatred has no home in Batley & Spen”.
Mr Cox also posted a picture of his late wife at the count on the night she was first elected in May last year, saying: “She was calm, serene and full of grace that night.”
Ms Brabin said: “This has been a difficult experience for all of us and tonight is a bitter sweet occasion for me. That this by-election has had to take place at all is a tragedy.
“I hope Jo will be proud tonight of our community. We have shown that we stand together with one voice choosing unity and hope.”
The turnout of less than 26% was among the lowest in a by-election since the Second World War.
Liberal Democrat president Baroness Brinton congratulated the Labour victor, adding: “This is an election we wish had never happened and this is why the Liberal Democrats decided not to stand.
“Parliament, public life more widely and a young family were robbed of Jo Cox. She was a strong, brilliant voice for progressive politics, and we are much poorer without her.”
Thomas Mair, 53, has been charged with 41-year-old Mrs Cox’s murder, possession of a firearm with intent and possession of an offensive weapon.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “good to see Labour see off the forces of hate and intolerance in Batley and Spen last night.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Our sorely-missed friend and colleague Jo Cox would be proud of Tracy, a wonderful campaigner and now Labour’s new MP for Batley and Spen.”
During a visit to Heckmondwike in the constituency, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said Ms Brabin would be an “admirable replacement” for Jo Cox.
He told a rally of supporters: “We are going to miss her, but I know that everyone is proud of you for stepping into her shoes.
“You’re going to be a very powerful voice for Batley, but what this result really shows is that the people of Batley have chosen unity over division and they are the people we are most proud of this morning.
“I just want to say how much I appreciate the other main parties standing by and showing respect for what went on in that terrible tragedy.
“She’s stepping in to big shoes but, if anyone can do it, she can.”
Ms Brabin said she “cannot wait to get to work”.
She added: “This was obviously a by-election nobody wanted.
“I have met people who have said ‘You are cut from the same cloth as Jo’, and I’m a local girl like Jo, I went to the same school as Jo, we come from the same background.
“I am passionate about my community, I’m committed to getting to work.”
In the day’s other by-election, in David Cameron’s old seat of Witney, Oxfordshire, the Conservatives survived a strong challenge from the Liberal Democrats to hang on, despite seeing their majority slashed.
Barrister Robert Courts secured the victory over Lib Dem Liz Leffman but saw Mr Cameron’s majority cut from more than 25,000 at last year’s general election to just 5,702.
A jubilant Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said the result was a rejection of the Tories’ plans for a “hard Brexit” while marking a return to the “political big time” for his party after their disastrous general election performance.
“The result not only signals that the Liberal Democrats are back in the political big time and the return to three-party politics, it is a clear rejection of the Conservative Brexit government’s plan to take Britain out of the single market. This was the tenth safest Tory seat in the country with a massive 25,000 majority, yet the Conservatives were seriously rattled,” he said.
BATLEY RESULT IN FULL
Tracy Brabin (Lab) 17,506 (85.84%, +42.61%)
Therese Hirst (Eng Dem) 969 (4.75%)
David Furness (BNP) 548 (2.69%)
Garry Kitchin (Ind) 517 (2.54%)
Corbyn Anti (Eng Ind) 241 (1.18%)
Jack Buckby (Lib GB) 220 (1.08%)
Henry Mayhew (Ind) 153 (0.75%)
Waqas Ali Khan (Ind) 118 (0.58%)
Richard Edmonds (NF) 87 (0.43%)
Ankit Love (Love) 34 (0.17%)
Lab maj 16,537 (81.09%)
Electorate 79,789; Turnout 20,393 (25.56%, -38.85%)
• 2015: Lab maj 6,057 (12.00%) - Turnout 50,479 (64.41%). Cox (Lab) 21,826 (43.24%); Ameen (C) 15,769 (31.24%); Lukic (UKIP) 9,080 (17.99%); Lawson (LD) 2,396 (4.75%); Bullock (Green) 1,232 (2.44%); Wheelhouse (TUSC) 123 (0.24%); Varley (PSP) 53 (0.10%)