Labour's Rosena Allin-Khan holds Tooting in byelection

Big Ben

Labour’s Rosena Allin-Khan was declared the victor in the Tooting byelection in south London in a result which was overshadowed by the brutal killing hours earlier of Jo Cox.

The mother of two, a junior accident and emergency doctor as well as deputy leader of the Labour group on Wandsworth council, was elected on a vote of 17,894, finishing 6,357 ahead of her Tory rival, Dan Watkins.

Turnout in the constituency, where Labour were defending Sadiq Khan’s general election majority of 2,824, was 42.5%. Khan stepped down as an MP following his election as mayor of London.

At one point the count was halted for a two minute silence for Cox and the union flag was lowered to half mast at the town hall. Amid emotional scenes, Labour activists embraced with tears in their eyes.

Speaking briefly from the stage at the election count in Wandsworth after she was declared the winner, Allin-Khan said that Cox’s death was a reminder that democracy was precious and had to be cherished. “My thoughts and prayers are with Jo’s husband and her children. She was a proud and passionate campaigner who will be desperately missed.

“Jo’s death reminds us that our democracy is precious but fragile. We must never forget to cherish it. Thousands of people voted today and we are all here in recognition of our democratic values.”

Her campaign had made much of her mixed Polish and Pakistani heritage as well as her working-class roots. She had been on course to become Labour’s 100th female MP until Cox’s death.

During the campaign she had spoken of how she wanted to focus on “uniting communities”, adding that her husband had converted to Islam and they are raising their two daughters, one and three, to be Muslim.

There was a heavier than normal police presence at the count in Wandsworth council’s civil suite. Wandsworth’s mayor, Richard Field, told reporters that the council had asked for extra security.

Clive Efford, the Labour MP overseeing the party’s polling day push in Tooting , said earlier in the evening that it had been an “extraordinarily difficult” day and the party had momentarily halted their campaign after learning of the death of Cox.

“When the news came out and the announcement was made around five o’clock everyone downed tools in the campaign but we realised that the process has got to continue and people gradually gathered themselves and got back out on the campaign,” he told the Guardian.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ben Quinn, for The Guardian on Friday 17th June 2016 01.27 Europe/London

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