Southend West by-election won by Tory Anna Firth in vote held after Sir David Amess killing

Watch a report by Charlie Frost.

Voters have elected Conservative candidate Anna Firth to replace Sir David Amess in the late MP's Southend West constituency following his death.

Ms Firth secured a comfortable 86% of the vote in the by-election which drew a turnout of 24% from an electorate of 66,354.

The newly elected Conservative MP for Southend West vowed to “work tirelessly to build on everything” her predecessor Sir David achieved.

The Tories held the seat after Ms Firth ran unchallenged by the other major parties, facing only eight fringe candidates, as a mark of respect for Sir David.

Sir David had served as Conservative MP in the constituency for 24 years.

His death following a stabbing at his constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea in October reignited discussions about MPs' public safety, after Labour MP Jo Cox's murder in 2016.

Conservative MP Sir David Amess with his pugs, Lily and Boat

At his funeral, attended by leaders and politicians from both sides of the aisle, the father-of-five was recalled as a passionate advocate for Southend.

Southend was awarded city status in Sir David's posthumous honour, in tribute to his years-long campaign for the upgrade.

His successor Ms Firth is a barrister and chief executive of an online school.

She told voters her plan was to make the most of Southend's newly acquired city status, improve Southend Hospital's services, and focus on re-building the community in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic.

In her victory speech following the by-election, Ms Firth praised the major rival parties for choosing not to contest the poll and recognised it was a “sad and painful day” for Sir David’s family.

Sir David Amess' funeral procession drew crowds who lined the streets.

“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."

She added: “It is the honour of my life to represent the people of Southend West and the place where I was born."

The turnout of 24% was just below that of the Batley and Spen contest in 2016, which was held in similar circumstances after Ms Cox was killed.

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 over 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”.

A number of spoilt ballots were seen containing messages rallying against Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Credit: PA

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, is accused of murdering Sir David, 69, and with preparing acts of terrorism between May 1, 2019 and September 28, 2021. He entered not guilty pleas to the charges at a hearing at the Old Bailey at a court appearance in December.

Full Southend West by-election vote results

There were 1,084 rejected ballot papers.

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%)