Voters to choose successor to murdered MP Jo Cox as far-right exploits tragedy

Jo Cox © Yui Mok
Voters in the constituency of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox are going to the polls to select a successor for the seat of Batley and Spen amid a rise in far-right activity in the area.

Cox, 41, was shot and stabbed outside her constituency surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire, one week before the EU referendum. The Constituency Labour Party (CLP) has chosen actor Tracy Brabin as a successor candidate.

While the by-election is uncontested by Britain’s major parties, it has seen an influx of far-right groups challenging the seat.

Polls opened at 7am (06:00 GMT) and will close at 10pm, after which votes will be counted at Cathedral House in Huddersfield.

Cox was gunned down and stabbed in broad daylight on June 16 in a crime which shocked the country and prompted international condemnation.

Birstall resident Thomas Mair, 53, has been charged with the late MP’s murder and is scheduled to go on trial next month. Following the attack, police discovered Mair had connections to nationalist groups in Britain and neo-Nazi groups overseas.

Brabin, who is likely to win the election, is concerned about how the far-right is seeking to exploit Cox’s murder and the subsequent by-election.

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,” Brabin told the Guardian newspaper.

It’s really heartbreaking actually.

Brabin, who was a friend of Cox’s, grew up in a council flat in Birstall and studied drama at Loughborough University, before landing jobs on television soaps Coronation Street, Eastenders and Emmerdale.

Britain’s major political parties – the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens and UK Independence Party (UKIP) – all chose not to contest the by-election out of respect to Cox’s memory.

However, far-right groups such as Liberty GB, National Front, English Democrats and the British National Party are all fielding candidates.

Liberty GB has promised to end immigration and tackle “grooming gangs,” according to leaflets photographed by Islamophobia watchdog Tell MAMA.