Tories win Southend West by-election in poll prompted by Sir David Amess killing

The Conservatives have held on to the seat of Southend West following a by-election triggered by the killing of Sir David Amess.

In a contest that Labour and the Liberal Democrats, along with other mainstream political parties, chose not to contest, Tory candidate Anna Firth ran out as a comfortable winner with 86% of the vote.

The by-election was held after former incumbent Sir David was killed at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex on October 15 during a constituency surgery.

The 69-year-old had served Southend West since 1997, and Basildon before that since 1983.

SOUTHEND, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Conservative MP Anna Firth stands with other candidates prior winning the Southend West by-election at Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre on February 04, 2022 in Southend, England. Anna Firth won with 12,792 votes in a contest that saw a low turnout of 22% as residents of Southend West elected a successor to murdered Conservative MP David Amess, who was stabbed to death at a constituency surgery meeting last year. To honour the MP, Southend has been granted city status, something Amess long campaigned for. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
SOUTHEND, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Conservative MP Anna Firth stands with other candidates prior winning the Southend West by-election at Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre on February 04, 2022 in Southend, England. Anna Firth won with 12,792 votes in a contest that saw a low turnout of 22% as residents of Southend West elected a successor to murdered Conservative MP David Amess, who was stabbed to death at a constituency surgery meeting last year. To honour the MP, Southend has been granted city status, something Amess long campaigned for. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)

Ms Firth, a qualified barrister, vowed to “work tirelessly to build on everything” achieved by Sir David during his lengthy tenure.

In her victory speech, she praised his widow Lady Amess, adding that she recognised it was a “sad and painful day” for his family.

“It is the honour of my life to represent the people of Southend West and the place where I was born,” she told supporters.

The by-election, which was contested by a number of fringe parties and independent candidates, drew a turnout of 24% – a figure just below that of the Batley and Spen contest in 2016, which was held in similar circumstances after Labour MP Jo Cox was killed.

A photograph of Sir David Amess (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)
A photograph of Sir David Amess is held by a mourner (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

During the count, the PA news agency witnessed a number of spoilt ballots containing messages rallying against Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is embroiled in controversy around potential lockdown breaches in Downing Street.

One ballot seen at the Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre where the count took place said “Boris, do a Brexit – get out”, while another voter scrawled “Get Boris out”

Southend West, with its 66,354 registered voters, has been held by the Conservatives since its creation in 1950.

Against a stage backdrop with “Southend City” branding – a reminder of Sir David’s posthumous success in seeing the Essex location’s status upgraded – Ms Firth used her speech after being elected to heap praise on her predecessor as a “passionate advocate” for the area.

“Sir David was a truly exceptional MP,” she said.

“He was a friend to all and had a huge impact on everyone who lives here.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

“For Sir David’s family and his friends tonight will be a sad and painful day and I would like to pay tribute to Lady Amess and their children. We are thinking of you tonight.”

Ali Harbi Ali is accused of murdering Sir David.

The 25-year-old is also charged with preparing acts of terrorism between May 1 2019 and September 28 last year.

Ali denied the charges at a hearing at the Old Bailey in December and faces a trial later this year.

Thursday’s poll saw the Psychedelic Movement’s Jason Pilley come a distant second in the contest with 512 votes, affording the Conservative’s a majority of 12,280. There were 1,084 rejected ballot papers.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The results for each candidate were as follows:

– Anna Firth (Conservative Party) 12,792 (86.10%)

– Jason Pilley (Psychedelic Movement) 512 (3.45%)

– Steve Laws (UKIP) 400 (2.69%)

– Catherine Blaiklock (English Democrats) 320 (2.15%)

– Jayda Fransen (Independent) 299 (2.01%)

– Ben Downton (Heritage Party) 236 (1.59%)

– Christopher Anderson (Freedom Alliance) 161 (1.08%)

– Graham Moore (English Constitution Party) 86 (0.58%)

– Olga Childs (No description) 52 (0.35%)