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Count begins in Southend West by-election to find successor to Sir David Amess

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T

he count is underway in the Southend West by-election where 24% of the electorate turned out to select a successor to Sir David Amess, who was murdered last year.

The Conservative MP was fatally stabbed at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea Essex on October 15 during a constituency surgery.

The by-election polls closed at 10pm and shortly before midnight on Thursday, the verification of the ballots was completed and the count started in a constituency that has 66,354 registered voters.

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

The first ballot boxes arrive at Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre (Joe Giddens/PA) / PA Wire

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

Sir David, who secured an increased majority of 14,459 in the 2019 general election, had served Southend West since 1997, and Basildon before that since 1983.

The Conservatives selected barrister Anna Firth as their candidate to succeed the 69-year-old.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats did not stand candidates in Thursday’s by-election contest.

Southend West has been held by the Conservatives since its creation in 1950.

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.

A photograph of Sir David Amess (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) / PA Wire

The candidates who stood in the by-election were:

– Freedom Alliance. The Real Alternative: Christopher Anderson

– English Democrats – “Protect Our Borders”: Catherine Blaiklock

– No Description: Olga Childs

– Heritage Party: Ben Downton

– Conservative Party: Anna Firth

– Independent: Jayda Fransen

– UK Independence Party: Steve Laws

– English Constitution Party, Freedom: Graham Moore

– Psychedelic Movement: Jason Pilley

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