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Two-minute silence for MP Jo Cox held at Tooting by-election count

Published 16/06/2016

Rosena Allin-Khan hopes to keep Tooting for Labour
Rosena Allin-Khan hopes to keep Tooting for Labour

A two-minute silence has been observed at the Tooting by-election count as t he murder of Labour MP Jo Cox cast a "dark shadow" over the process of electing the newest member of the Commons.

Mrs Cox, who was the MP for Batley and Spen, died after being shot and stabbed in the street outside her constituency advice surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

Labour councillor and junior doctor Rosena Allin-Khan is seeking to retain the Tooting seat for Labour after it was vacated by Sadiq Khan following his election as London's mayor.

Her main rival for the south London seat is Tory Dan Watkins, who unsuccessfully stood against Mr Khan in the general election last year.

Mr Khan stood down as MP for Tooting after defeating Tory Zac Goldsmith in the City Hall contest in May.

Paul Martin, the acting returning officer in the constituency, said the silence was to allow everyone involved in the count to "reflect upon this awful loss".

He said: "The murder of Jo Cox has shocked the entire country, and it has hit home particularly hard in Tooting where right now the community is in the process of selecting a new member of parliament to represent their interests.

"It is our duty and responsibility to continue with this by-election, but clearly a very dark shadow has been cast over these proceedings."

Dr Allin-Khan and Mr Watkins have both described Mrs Cox's death as "shocking" and said their thoughts and prayers were with her family and friends.

Mr Khan, who had been the area's MP since 2005, held Tooting with a majority of 2,842 over Mr Watkins - a local businessman - at the general election.

The by-election result will be closely watched by Jeremy Corbyn's critics in the Labour Party, but coming a week before the EU referendum, the campaign has been overshadowed by the closing stages of the Brexit battle.

Born and raised in the area, Dr Allin-Khan works as an emergency doctor at St George's Hospital and is also deputy leader of Wandsworth Labour group.

Mayor of Wandsworth Richard Field paused the count to observe the silence.

For two minutes the excited chatter and rustling of ballot papers stopped as people bowed their heads.

Taking to the stage at Wandsworth Town Hall, Mr Field said: "As the returning officer, I wanted to express the sadness everyone involved in this by-election has felt today at the dreadful death of Jo Cox, and to convey our deep-felt condolences to those closest to her.

"The impact of this tragic event is being felt right across the country, but it has a very deep resonance here in this room as the votes are counted for Tooting's new member of parliament."

Turnout in the by-election was 42.5%, Wandsworth Council said.

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