Right-wing party ruled to have used offensive language on ballots for Jo Cox's former seat

English Democrat Leader and Founder Robin Tilbrook.
English Democrat Leader and Founder Robin Tilbrook.

A right-wing political group has had its appeal to uphold "offensive" wording on ballot papers thrown out by the High Court.

The English Democrats leader Robin Tilbrook launched a High Court challenge against the Electoral Commission's removal of the phrase; "English Democrats - England worth fighting for!" from ballot papers during the Batley and Spen by-election in the wake of Jo Cox's murder.

The commission said the word "fighting" was likely to be associated with its "violent, primary, literal meaning" by voters.

Controversial figure Mr Tilbrook, a solicitor, told the High Court last month: "We didn't think it was offensive.

"We are a small party with very little money and we rely on being visible on the ballot paper to get our message out.

"To lose something like that with no power to resist and no opportunity to be consulted in advance is just potentially devastating."

Electoral Commission lawyers said that the nature of Jo Cox's death had created "electorally extreme" circumstances and that it would have been "inappropriate and ill-judged" to allow words associated with violence on the ballot papers.

Dismissing the English Democrats' case, Mr Justice Supperstone said: "I do not accept that the decision was one the commission could not reasonably have reached.

"It is clear the commission undertook a careful review.

"It concluded that the murder of Ms Cox in her constituency under the banner of putting 'Britain first' meant that the use of the word 'fighting' in the description would, for a sufficiently large number of voters reading the ballot paper, more likely be associated with its primary meaning than its secondary meaning, rendering the description offensive.

"This, in my judgment, was a conclusion that the commission was entitled to reach on the evidence."