Tory Councillor Simon Cooke Says Jo Cox's Batley And Spen Seat Should Be Contested

Backlash after saying Tories should contest by-election.

A Tory councillor has prompted disgust for arguing his party should contest the seat left empty by the murder of Jo Cox.

Simon Cooke, leader of the Conservatives on Bradford Council, said there was “no justification” for giving a “free pass” to Labour in the Batley And Spen by-election.

Cooke further elaborated his position by saying the official stance of the Tories, Liberal Democrats and Ukip not to field a candidate out of respect to the murdered MP was “shared values nonsense” and an “attack on free speech”.

A fellow Tory also accused Labour of “dragging their feet” over the date of the by-election.

The comments were immediately seized upon as being insensitive with calls for Cooke to reconsider and remove the offending tweets, led by Labour MP Melanie Onn.

Jo Cox, who was 41 and had two young children, was shot and stabbed to death on 16 June.

Her killing shocked the nation and provoked an outpouring of bewilderment and soul-searching around the world.

The Labour party announced on Friday that former Coronation Street actress Tracy Brabin, a close friend of Jo, had been selected as their candidate for the by-election which will be held on 20 October.

She promised to be a “loud, proud and strong Yorkshire voice” in the role, which she is virtually guaranteed as all other major parties have vowed not to contest the seat out of respect for Cox.

An emotional tribute was paid to Jo at Labour’s annual conference on Saturday, led by Jess Phillips, chair of the Women’s PLP.

A video commemorating her work will be played on Sunday at the ACC in Liverpool.

On Friday, her widower, Brendan, along with their two children, met Barack Obama at the White House.

A White House official said: “The visit was the result of an invitation the President extended to Mr Cox and his family when he called him on June 17 to offer his sincere condolences on behalf of the American people.

“The President reminded Mr Cox and his children that the selfless service to others of their late mother had made the world a better place, and reaffirmed their shared commitment to carry on the legacy of her work.”

The Conservative Party has been approached for comment.

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