Shrewsbury Labour candidate inspired by murdered friend Jo Cox
Labour's general election candidate for Shrewsbury has told how it was the inspiration of her friend Jo Cox that made her want to "stand up for what you believe in".
Julia Buckley was only selected as the Labour Party's Shrewsbury & Atcham candidate last week, after a messy and protracted row between previous candidate Dr Laura Davies and local party members.
After Davies was removed by national Labour officials, Mrs Buckley, a 45-year-old mother of two from Bridgnorth was selected as the replacement. She has previously stood in the Ludlow constituency, and also the EU elections.
She has revealed how she spoke to Dr Davies before applying for the post, and insisted she would defend the integrity of her predecessor – who had gone against party policy over the county's hospitals.
She said: "I spoke to Laura Davies three times before I decided to apply.
"The last thing I said is I promised to uphold her integrity and name and would not allow anything to be said against her."
The daughter of a coal miner from Selby, Mrs Buckley currently works for Wolverhampton Council and on bids for European grant funding – the last of which have now been concluded.
She has worked in Brussels for five years, where her office was next to Jo Cox, who was an assistant to European MP Glenys Kinnock at the time.
Mrs Cox was murdered during the EU Referendum campaign and Mrs Buckley explained how her friend's death had encouraged her to get more involved in politics.
She said: "Really she is the main reason I stood for parliament. She stood up for what she believed in and when she was killed I realised you cannot wait and let someone else do this, you need to stand up for what you believe in."
She added: "When we were in Brussels we were in our mid 20s and you are idealistic, enthusiastic, all going to change the world and do things.
"When I came back to the UK I got married, had kids, and it takes over your life.
"I ended up getting a bit disengaged, watching politics on the TV and shouting at it."
After Mrs Cox's death and the EU referendum result, on which she came out on the losing side, she said she made up her mind to get more involved.
She said: "I thought you can be sad forever or use the energy and try and make a difference. It is what she would have done – get up and use what she could to make a difference."
There is no doubt that the task ahead is significant, Conservative Daniel Kawczynski has won the seat in the last four general elections, and was returned with a majority of more than 6,000 votes in 2017.
But Mrs Buckley is undaunted, and says the party are targeting the seat as one for potential success.
She said: "Everywhere I go people are so keen to win this seat and Labour has it as a priority seat with lots of resources and are determined to get it over the line."
With campaigning well under way Mrs Buckley said that the NHS, transport and investment in Shrewsbury have all been recurring concerns from voters.
She said: "There have been a couple of things that keep coming up on the doorstep. The NHS, people are so distressed about Royal Shrewsbury Hospital's condition and are also quite angry about the hours being cut at PRH in Telford because they know that immediately displaces demand onto RSH.
"If Labour win the election Future Fit goes straight out of the window and both hospitals get the money they need. Investment in the NHS is a priority."
She said people were also concerned about the cost of bus routes and the state of trains, as well as the environmental effect of pollution across the centre of the town.
She added: "It is also embarrassing how little funding has come to Shrewsbury compared to other parts of the country."