Sir Keir Starmer has hailed Paulette Hamilton’s victory in the Birmingham Erdington by-election as the passing of a “baton” from one “great champion of working people” to another.
The former nurse polled 9,413 votes, 55% of ballots cast, as Labour increased its vote share.
She has become Birmingham’s first black MP and revealed her father died just as her campaign started.
The by-election was held following the sudden death of Jack Dromey.
The veteran MP died in January aged 73 and had held the seat since 2010.
Speaking on a visit to Birmingham following the win, the Labour leader said: “Jack would be smiling this morning… looking down seeing that baton being passed to Paulette, a champion of working people for Erdington.”
Addressing Ms Hamilton, he said: “You will be a fantastic champion for them, bringing them what they want most – the security of knowing they’ve got a champion for them in Parliament, the prosperity that they want for themselves, their businesses, their communities, and the respect that they so richly deserve.”
Sir Keir, who had earlier tweeted that Ms Hamilton had “made history”, added her swearing in as an MP on Monday would be a “special moment”.
Following her win, she said: “I never thought I’d be running to be an MP, but the fact that I am now not only the MP for Erdington but the first black woman – the first woman to ever get the position – I am delighted and I am still pinching myself.”
Twelve candidates stood in the election and the turnout was 27%, compared with 50.3% in the 2019 general election.
Robert Alden, Conservative leader at the city council, had been vying to become the first Tory MP for the constituency since 1936.
He won 6,147, or 36% of votes, giving Ms Hamilton a majority of 3,266.
In her victory speech, Ms Hamilton said she was “exhausted but delighted”.
“But I’d also like to say a special thank you to Keir Starmer for his endless support – even when my dad died, they were there, they wrapped me in cotton wool and they supported me, and my dad isn’t even buried yet but they were there when I was crying.”
Thanking her family and campaign team, she also gave thanks to police and council staff for the “smooth running” of the count operation.
“I know it’s a lot of work that often goes unmentioned, so thank you for your endless professionalism and commitment to the democratic process,” she added.
“Something I think we all treasure even more following the events in Europe.”
Prior to the election, Conservative MPs Tom Hunt and Gary Sambrook had called on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to suspend Ms Hamilton, following comments she made at an event titled “The Ballot or the Bullet – Does your vote count?” in 2015 about increasing ethnic minorities’ representation in politics.
Mr Hunt added she should have the party whip withdrawn if she was elected.
A Labour spokesman said: “In Paulette, the people of Birmingham Erdington have elected a great local champion.
“We’re delighted that this campaign has seen the first black MP elected from a Birmingham constituency.”
Some 17,016 ballots were cast in the election, in an electorate of 62,996.
Some in the local black community said they were surprised the city had not had a black MP before.
Shopkeeper Buki Hannawai said it was “shocking” and “really quite sad”.
But she welcomed the development and said: “It’s positive change for me personally as a local resident and as someone who works in the area as well.”
She also believes Ms Hamilton will feel the pressure of being the first and said: “It’s with anything, across society. If you’re the first, you’re carrying everybody with you and their expectations.”
Analysis – Rob Mayor, political reporter – BBC Radio WM
This was a by-election which started with the background of investigations into parties at Downing Street and ended overshadowed by war in Ukraine.
It’s a case of as you were for the two main parties, though Labour’s vote share increased and the Conservatives’ reduced slightly.
The Lib Dems meanwhile were beaten down to sixth behind the Trade Unionist Socialist Coalition, Reform Party and the Greens.
This result may not tell us a huge amount about the standing of the two parties with voters, but it is a landmark moment, as Paulette Hamilton becomes the first black MP to represent a Birmingham constituency.
Mr Alden said the low turnout was a reflection Labour was not “ready to govern”.
“This is a seat that has been Labour over the last 85 years… the fact the majority is so small here today is really a damning indictment where the Labour party is nationally,” he added.
Mr Dromey, a shadow minister married to fellow Labour MP Harriet Harman, made his name in politics through the union movement, as a leading figure in the Transport and General Workers’ Union, which later became Unite.
In the 2019 general election he won the seat with 17,720 of votes cast.
A by-election is held when a seat becomes vacant when an MP resigns or dies, is declared bankrupt, takes a seat in the House of Lords or is convicted of a serious criminal offence.
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