The 2022 Southend West by-election was held on February 3rd, to elect a replacement for the previous incumbent Sir David Amess, who was murdered while attending a constituency surgery in October 2021. Out of respect for Sir David, major opposition parties did not put forward candidates for the election, and the Conservative candidate Anna Firth was elected with 86.1% of the vote.
The by-election was fairly notable as far as turnout and spoilt ballot papers go; according to the BBC:
Turnout at just 24% was one of the lowest for a Westminster
by-election since World War Two, while the number of spoilt ballot
papers rose four-fold to more than 1,000 - a figure higher than the
number of votes any of the minor parties and independent candidates
Some chose to write messages including "Boris do a Brexit - get out" -
a sign that events in Westminster have played out here at the polls.
The number of spoilt papers seems particularly high - looking at the comparable 2016 Batley and Spen by-election held to replace the murdered MP Jo Cox, there were just 171 spoilt ballots with a similar turnout.
Was the number of spoilt ballot papers - 1,084 - a record for a Westminster election, either in raw numbers or as a percentage of turnout?