Batley and Spen Labour Candidate Calls for Unity in Party

24 September 2016, 12:04 | Updated: 24 September 2016, 12:07

Former Coronation Street actress Tracy Brabin, who is almost certain to become the newest Labour MP next month, has said the party must unify and fight the Tories after the leadership election.

Asked about Labour's troubles as she campaigned hours after being selected as the party's candidate in next month's Batley and Spen by-election, she said: "Today it's all going to be over and what's important is unity.

"We've all got to work together now because this infighting has been a distraction. We need to take the fight to the Tories.''

The by-election in the West Yorkshire constituency on October 20 was called following the shocking death of Jo Cox, who was shot and stabbed in the centre of Birstall in June.

Ms Brabin, who has appeared in just about every British TV soap over the last 20 years, is virtually guaranteed to win as all the other major parties have vowed not to contest the seat out of respect for the deceased MP.

Meeting voters in the centre of Cleckheaton on Saturday, she explained how Mrs Cox had encouraged her to be an MP when they campaigned together in last year's general election.

She said: "When we were out canvassing and campaigning she was always an advocate for women in politics and she would say 'Tracy, you should think about being an MP'.

"Batley and Spen is my home, this is the only place that I'd think about doing it. Who knew what was going to happen?

"I'm really really committed to making her proud.''

She said: "She was an extraordinary woman and you see the profound changes that she was making to people's lives.

"I would like to carry on her legacy of being very much a hands-on MP, if everything goes well.''

Ms Brabin said: "I'm so excited and thrilled and humbled and hugely grateful to the people of Batley and Spen who have volunteered to support me through this very fast campaign.

"It's a privilege to be representing the people that I grew up with and the place that I'm from.''

The actress and screenwriter was selected by around 300 party members on Friday night ahead of the only other shortlisted candidate, Jane Thomas, following hustings at a Batley school.

Ms Brabin said she was brought up in a council flat in the constituency and her mother owned a popular local cafe called Betty's.

She played Tricia Armstrong in Coronation Street in the 1990s before appearing as Roxy Drake in EastEnders, and Carole in Emmerdale.

She has also written for shows including Family Affairs, Tracy Beaker and Hollyoaks.

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Ukip have said they will not field a candidate in the by-election but fringe parties Liberty GB and the English Democrats have said they will contest the seat. An independent candidate has also said he will stand.

Nominations close next week.