UK Conservatives hold Commons seat vacated by ex-PM Cameron

AP News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2016 6:29 AM
UK Conservatives hold Commons seat vacated by ex-PM Cameron

LONDON (AP) — Britain's Conservative Party has retained the seat in Parliament vacated by the former prime minister, David Cameron, but with a sharply reduced majority.

In results announced early Friday, Conservative candidate Robert Courts won the rural English seat of Witney by more than 5,000 votes, taking 45 percent of the votes cast — down from the 60 percent Cameron achieved in the 2015 national election.

The centrist Liberal Democrats surged past Labour into second place. Green candidate Larry Sanders — brother of former Democrat presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders — came fourth with 3.5 percent.

The Lib Dems hailed their advance, but special elections often see big swings to opposition parties that are not repeated in national elections. Turnout in Witney was under 50 percent, far lower than in 2015.

In another special election held Thursday, Labour candidate Tracy Brabin — an actress who has appeared on long-running soap opera "Coronation Street" — was elected to the northern England seat of slain Labour lawmaker Jo Cox.

Cox was shot and stabbed to death June 16, a week before Britain's divisive referendum on whether to leave the European Union. A 53-year-old local man, Thomas Mair, is due to stand trial for murder.

As a mark of respect, rival parties including the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats did not contest the election. Several far-right candidates ran, but none passed the threshold of 5 percent of the votes needed to retain their 500 pound ($612) election deposits.

Cox's widower Brendan Cox tweeted: "Great to see all the purveyors of hate lose their deposits."

Brabin, who took 86 percent of votes cast, said the result was a victory for "hope and unity."