TRACY BRABIN has been sworn in as the new MP for Batley & Spen after last Thursday’s by-election. The Labour candidate polled 17,506 votes, seeing off nine other fringe candidates who all lost their deposits.
Ms Brabin was always expected to win the election comfortably and that proved to be the case, with Therese Hirst of the English Democrats coming a distant second with 969 votes. The former actress’s victory speech was marred by heckling from some of the other candidates, with her words sometimes obscured by catcalls from the floor.
A lower than expected turnout was announced at Huddersfield’s Cathedral House, with just 20,567 of an eligible 79,781 voting – 25.78 per cent of the electorate. Turnout in the 2015 General Election was 64.4% (50,479 votes) and of the 64 by-elections held since 1997, only six have had lower turnouts than last week’s.
The election was triggered by the tragic death of Jo Cox – and mainstream parties did not field candidates as a mark of respect following her killing in June.
Ms Brabin described some of the right wing candidates who stood against her as “unpleasant.”
She said: “This by-election was unnecessary. What was our tragedy was seen as an opportunity by them to spread division and hatred. I think you can see from the numbers there is not much traction in them.
“Since Jo’s death, the community has been yearning for a connection.”
Speaking from the platform 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. Our friend Jo was taken from us in an act of violent hatred and we are still all reeling from the shock of losing such a wonderful person and fantastic MP.
“This will be a particularly difficult day for Jo’s family and friends and I want to pay tribute to them – we are all thinking of you and will always stand side by side with you.
“I want to pay tribute to the other mainstream parties for recognising the deeply sad nature of this by-election and deciding not to stand.
“I hope Jo would be proud tonight of our community. We have shown that we stand together with one voice, choosing unity and hope.
“I have met so many people over the last few weeks who have told me they didn’t usually vote Labour but were lending me their support this time – some because of what Jo meant to them, some because they wanted to send a message that our community stands united, some as a reaction to some of the fringe parties who chose to try and use this tragic by-election as an opportunity to sow division.
“Whether you voted for me, voted for other candidates or didn’t vote at all, I give you my word I will be an equally strong voice for each and every one of you.”
Mrs Cox’s husband Brendan Cox tweeted his congratulations: “Well done @Tracy4MP & great to see all the purveyors of hate lose their deposits.”
Minutes after her election the new MP said her main priority will be to tackle the impending downgrade of Dewsbury and District Hospital. She said that one of her first priorities in her new job was to address the uncertainty surrounding the hospital. “It is the main thing on the doorstep,” said Ms Brabin.
“People are really anxious and really stressed about how quickly it is happening and how little they know. They are worried about what the future holds, what will happen if they have a baby, what will happen if they get ill – so that will be my number one priority.”
Ms Brabin and Mrs Cox were close friends and campaigned together to save Batley Library from closure.
But the 55-year-old is keen to leave her own mark on the constituency. She said: “We cannot forget how we got here, but it is important for me to build on Jo’s legacy and all the work she did in the community, to bring my own experience to Batley and Spen. I must plough my own furrow.”
Ms Brabin was officially sworn in at the Houses of Parliament on Monday and is setting up her team and office in the constituency.
Tracy Brabin (Lab) - 17,506 (85.84%)
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%)
A total of 171 ballot papers were rejected