'I hope to do Jo proud' says Labour Batley and Spen candidate Tracy Brabin

Tracy Brabin is Labour's candidate to succeed Jo Cox as MP for Batley and Spen
Tracy Brabin is Labour's candidate to succeed Jo Cox as MP for Batley and Spen

LABOUR candidate Tracy Brabin is hoping Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters back her in the Batley and Spen by-election to show a united front against extreme groups.

The Tories and Lib Dems will not field candidates in the by-election which was triggered by the death of Jo Cox in June but far-Right parties are expected to stand.

In the absence of mainstream opposition Ms Brabin is a near-certainty to be Batley and Spen's MP but she is hoping for a strong turnout on October 20 and an "overwhelming" victory.

Ms Brabin, best known to many for her television acting roles in Coronation Street and Emmerdale, admitted it will be a "very strange by-election".

She told The Yorkshire Post: "The big emphasis is that it's got to be about bringing people together now.

"It's important I meet everybody in the constituency and I'm hoping that they will trust me and believe in me enough that they can put their normal party political allegiances to one side. We need to work together."

Mrs Cox was a passionate campaigner for community cohesion, a cause her husband Brendan and family and friends have continued to pursue since her death.

Ms Brabin said the by-election was an opportunity for the people of Batley and Spen to demonstrate the area is united against extremists.

"I'm hoping I can reach out to people who wouldn't necessarily normally vote Labour but in this circumstance, in this special situation that they may do it as a statement of cohesion and saying 'who are the people of Batley and Spen? We are people who stand together against division'," she said.

The decision by the Tories and Lib Dems not to stand in Batley and Spen was taken in the immediate aftermath of Mrs Cox's death and there has been some debate within both parties in the months since over whether that was the correct decision but Ms Brabin insisted it was the right one.

"I think the parties made that decision in respect and I think we should continue that. I think it's not what anybody wants this by-election. I think it's unnecessary we are putting people through this at a time when what we should be doing is standing shoulder to shoulder.

"My big push would be to work towards greater social cohesion, greater unity, greater understanding. We don't want anything that would fuel hatred between members and organisations in the community. I think it's about being together and being united."

Ms Brabin campaigned alongside Mrs Cox in the 2015 general election and worked with her in later efforts to save libraries in the area. The relationship played a major part in Ms Brabin's decision to seek the nomination.

"I've been involved in politics and campaigns all my life. While I was campaigning with Jo she was such a huge advocate for women in politics. She said to me 'you should think about becoming an MP' and of course at the time I didn't give it much thought because the only place I would ever be an MP is my hometown.

"A number of people in the Labour party asked me what I thought about maybe putting my name in and it just felt like all roads led here. I couldn't let her memory down by not having the courage to stand."

"Batley made me and now it's time to give back."

Ms Brabin was raised in the constituency, going to Heckmondwike Grammar School and becoming the first person in her family to go to university.

She has earned fame through her acting and screenwriting and she insisted she was happy to be known for that rather than her longstanding political activity.

"I'm hugely proud of having been an actor and a writer. As a child lots of people dream of being a train driver. I dreamt of being an actor and I became it, it's a privelege and an honour to be able to make a living out of the thing you love but life has taken another turn and I'm so excited to walk through this door.

"I hope I won't let the constituency down, I won't let the Labour Party down and Brendan and the family, I hope to do them proud in memory of Jo."

Ms Brabin is on track to become an MP during a turbulent time for Labour with swathes of the parliamentary party at loggerheads with leader Jeremy Corbyn but she insisted that had not given her pause for thought.

"He's won a really impressive mandate, congratulations to Jeremy, 62 per cent, fantastic, now we have to work together because the Tories are getting away with it.

"Grammar schools turning back the clock, we're not in the Brexit discussions, there is so much to do. In Batley and Spen, 8000 people using foodbanks,welfare a huge issue with sanctions, the downgrading of Dewsbury Hospital. There's so much to do, we've got to get to work.

"Nothing gave me pause for thought, I had to do it. I couldn't walk away, I would have regretted it all my life and I would have done a disservice to Jo's memory," she said.