Sheffield is a lovely part of the world, and Laura Gordon would be an excellent Lib Dem MP

The Star is reporting that Sheiffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara is to resign his seat after the parliamentary recess:

The MP, aged 37, said he was ‘not well and in the process of receiving medical help’ and would resign following the MPs’ summer recess, which is due to end on Tuesday, September 3.

Mr O’Mara: “Please let everyone be assured that I will be tendering my resignation via the official Parliamentary process as soon as term restarts.

“I am not in any fit state to continue and nor would that be appropriate if I was. I reiterate my apology to my constituents, the people of Sheffield and the people of the UK as whole.”

This news comes at the end of an extraordinary week in which his chief of staff resigned via O’Mara’s Twitter account, accusing him of “vile, inexcusable contempt” for the voters. This was followed by allegations that he had sexually harassed a young woman on his staff.

He issued a statement yesterday saying that he was struggling with mental health issues and said that he would be making a further statement in a few weeks. However, the Times gives details today of messages sent to the young woman concerned. He also sent some pretty horrible messages to his staff about Lib Dem candidate Laura Gordon.

It’s that Times report that seems to have prompted his statement of intent to resign.

A by-election in Hallam is definitely winnable for us. And Laura is a brilliant candidate. I can definitely feel a trip to the city coming on. However, almost everybody expects there to be a General Election in the Autumn, so it’s possible that either a by-election gets disrupted by the dissolution of Parliament or the by-election doesn’t happen at all. It’ll be Labour who get to decide when to move the writ.

I suspect they may wait a bit. The prospect, as Kevin Lang put it on Twitter, of every Lib Dem in the country descending on Hallam in a by-election will be something that Labour wants to avoid.

Labour have been all over the place on a General Election this week. The spectacle of them having a rally outside Parliament calling for a General Election while, inside the building, refusing to support a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s horrific government would have been amusing if the mess we were in wasn’t so serious.

Whether it’s a by-election or a general election, Laura Gordon is in a very good position. She has also been very generous with her time, heading to Brecon and Radnorshire and other by-elections. If you get the chance to go and help her out over the Summer recess, please do so.

She said that a by-election win for her would send a powerful message to Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn:

By resigning Jared is doing the right thing – both for himself and his constituents.

People in Sheffield will now get their chance to have their say, both on Boris Johnson’s dangerous Conservative Government and on Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to provide effective opposition at a time of national crisis.

This by-election can send a powerful message for change and the Lib Dems ready for the challenge.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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40 Comments

  • Paul Barker 27th Jul '19 - 4:52pm

    Jared O,Mara is an Independent MP, there is no convention about who should move The Writ, we should do it as soon as its clear that A General Election is not an immediate prospect.

  • Paul: Jared was elected initially as a Labour MP therefore it is the Labour Party who will move the writ.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Jul '19 - 5:24pm

    Thank you for the laugh, Kevin Lang via Caron! And it’s great to think that election expert Andrew Sangar will be able to operate in his own patch of Sheffield once again. Andy taught us all so much, so enjoyably, about election campaigning in the Copeland by-election. I hope I shall encounter you again, Andy, when I return to Llandindrod Wells on Monday for a second two-day stint in that delightful town to help excellent candidate Jane Dodds.

  • Before people rush to Sheffield there is another by-election where help is required- Shetland.

  • Nonconformistradical 27th Jul '19 - 5:48pm

    The timescale for initiating a by-election should be something else covered by a written constitution. We are supposed to have a representative democracy. But leaving a parliamentary seat vacant for a variable length of time leaves the constituents without a parliamentary representative for a variable length of time.

    I cannot see why there cannot be a fixed timetable – with suitable allowance made if the vacancy resulted from the death of the sitting MP.

  • Paul Barker 27th Jul '19 - 6:07pm

    Labour only get to move The Writ if we let them.

  • Paul is right. O’Mara is independent so there is no reason Labour should move the writ. As the previous holder of the seat was a Lib Dem, there is a strong argument we should do it.

    (Constitutionally any MP can move it. Convention is that the relevant party does.)

  • I’m surprised how little comment there has been about how Jared O’Mara was allowed to be a candidate in the first place. Labour’s vetting process was clearly found wanting here, and they deserve to be called out for it. Did they not search his twitter feed? Did they not ask about his mental health? Did they take references? Did they not make an assessment of his true capacity to do the job? I know there are difficult issues there, but that’s what vetting is about. The fact he left Labour and is now an Independent MP does not absolve them of the responsibility for putting him there in the first place.

  • Andrew McCaig 27th Jul '19 - 7:25pm

    Tony,
    Of course Labour should have vetted him more carefully, but i am not sure i would be happy if I found Lib Dem HQ were scouring my social media without my permission before letting me be a candidate. Of course we do normally insist on panelling but possibly in a snap election it may occasionally fail to happen.

    In this case when the election was called noone was expecting Labour to win Hallam and O’Mara himself complains he got no help in the campaign.

  • Back in July 1973, Dick Taverne MP attempted to move the writ in Berwick-upon-Tweed after Lord Lambton resigned his seat following a scandal. He was supported by David Steel who held surgeries in Berwick much to the annoyance of the Tories.

    The by-election was eventually held in the Autumn resulting in Alan Beith gaining the seat. The Lib Dem’s should try to force the issue in September ASAP.

  • Tony Greaves 27th Jul '19 - 8:43pm

    If people post stuff on social media on publicly accessible sites it is in the public domain. If people post on party sites, it’s within the party domain. If you don’t want people to see it, don’t post it.

  • mick scholes 27th Jul '19 - 9:10pm

    Could a local Independent MP such as Angela Smith, (Penistone and Stocksbridge – a neighbouring constituancy) who has been campaigning for Jane Dodds in B & R not move the writ, should he actually resign (which he may not)?

  • jayne mansfield 27th Jul '19 - 9:21pm

    We need a General Election.

  • O’Mara clearly has issues which he needs to deal with. We should respect his right to privacy and treatment.

    It’s just a shame that the people of Hallam were deprived of an excellent MP and inspirational leader in 2017. It would have been better for everyone if they hadn’t.

  • Charles Pragnell 27th Jul '19 - 9:42pm

    Really surprised a recall petition was not put in place before now. He is doing the honourable thing and intends to stand down. I would hope a general election would be called before a by election takes place.
    We are odds on to win it back at the next General election. Labour’s majority was 2150 at the last election. It would take a swing of only 4 percent .

    It’s turning out to be quite a Summer, what next! What a week for Jo , plus to great election by elections in Gloucester. Especially in a council seat of Podsmore where we had in the past no real support.
    It tells us we are capable of winning any where.

  • Can I just point out The Star referred to is the much respected local South South Yorkshire paper not the revolting Daily Star.

  • Andrew McCaig – As Tony Greaves says, social media sites are public. People don’t need your ‘permission’ to search through it. A decent twitter/facebook search should be a key part of any vetting process, for all parties.
    And the fact there was a snap election isn’t an excuse for sloppy vetting. It was the same for all parties. And I also don’t buy the idea that Hallam wasn’t a target seat; they were only a couple of thousand votes behind. Even if they didn’t throw resources at it, they must have been aware they might win on a good night.
    We shouldn’t be making excuses for Labour but attacking them for selecting someone so clearly unsuitable to be an MP. It was unfair to the voters – and to him.

  • John Marriott 27th Jul '19 - 10:38pm

    I often wonder how many other dodgy characters skip through the net or how much due diligence people take before casting their vote. I wouldn’t entirely adopt a holier than thou attitude. I’ve known a few duds being put forward under the Lib Dem banner over the years. Fortunately very few if indeed any of them actually get elected.

  • If anyone doubts the need to check the social media of candidates I’ll just refer to my experience as a by election candidate. Within two hours of me being announced as the candidate for the Newark by election someone had been eight through my Twitter feed for at least the previous six years reposting anything that was in the slightest bit controversial. Because I’ve always been careful what I post the worst they could find was a comment about our local football clubs tendency to get through three or four managers a season, but it didn’t stop them looking. It wasn’t even someone local to the seat!

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jul '19 - 8:08am

    I do not usually bet, but a Labour activist boasted that they would win Sheffield Hallam in 2015. We were in Brussels at an event organised by our MEP Catherine Bearder. She paid £20 when I said I would donate the winnings to a foodbank in Paddock Wood, which I did.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-49139758

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jul '19 - 8:34am

    28th Jul ’19 – 8:08am Just for clarity I asked the Labour woman how much she would bet, £10? £20? £50?. She was rather taken aback and eventually settled on £20, but was slow to pay.
    I had attended an event in Maidstone and asked the HQ guest speaker about Sheffield Hallam, expecting the party to support its leader, but, as with SDP Leader Roy Jenkins in Glasgow Hillhead in 1983, holding the seat is not the only criterion.

  • What about the Remain Alliance? In the Euros the Greens did well in Sheffield(24%). The combined vote of the Remain parties was 44% compared with 31% for Brexit and UKIP. Surely strong evidence that Sheffield has moved into the Remain column since 2016.
    Its important because Sheffield Central is also a very winnable seat for the Alliance.
    Tough negotiations with our putative partners ?

  • Rod, both Sheffield Hallam and Sheffield Central were strongly Remain in 2016. It is possible Sheffield Heeley will have switched.

  • jayne mansfield 28th Jul '19 - 11:21am

    @ Martin,

    I too think the outcome would be unpredictable. However, with all the arguments about our democracy, and what is or isn’t democratic, a GE would provide an outcome that whatever one’s values and political views, one would have to live with, and I believe that most people would.

    It seems to me to be the only way to settle the deep divisions that have opened up in our society.

  • jayne mansfield 28th Jul '19 - 11:28am

    @ John Marriott,

    Indeed. I can think of one who switched from Liberal Party to Labour then back to the Liberals who was guilty of the most heinous of crimes.

  • Looking forward to helping in Hallam, after Brecon – please go if you can this week.
    If Boris does a Gordon Brown and ducks a General Election in the Autumn, what are the odds of a Maidenhead by-election later this year (aka Witney 2016)?

  • David Garlick 28th Jul '19 - 4:40pm

    Any time spent now is, as we all know, worth more than in the actual mad few weeks.
    If there is no more pressing need then a visit to Sheffield to help would be well worth it and much appreciated by them I am sure.

  • jayne mansfield 28th Jul '19 - 8:34pm

    @ Martin,

    A second referendum (if the polls are to believed) is likely to be indecisive).

    The 2016 referendum was advisory. The problem has been that we have had a government that could not govern. A new government has been formed by existing Tory members but despite the recklessness and bluster, I don’t believe they will be able to govern either because there are too few MPs who would allow a no deal. A referendum would once more fail to solve what is a parliamentary problem.

    In a General election the parties would have to present their aims and objectives, including, but not exclusively their approach to Brexit. As electors we would be in a better position to judge which party offers a future that more closely aligns with our own values and beliefs, whilst accepting as always, that one might not get the MP or the government that one wants.

  • Rebecca Taylor 2nd Aug '19 - 12:35pm

    Every analysis of marginal seats I’ve seen (3 or 4?) has Sheffield Hallam as a LibDem gain. I think we currently hold all the council seats, having lost some of them in the past, but won them back (awaits correction from a Sheffield LibDem…).

    I’ll certainly make my way to Sheffield Hallam (toddler in tow..) once the by-election is called.

  • @ Peter Huggins “It seems to make sense to prepare for one soon although it would suit the Lib Dems better if they could wait until Corbyn has been replaced.”

    I’m afraid I disagree, Peter. From conversations with Labour friends, the Corbyn bubble burst this year because of his vagueness and mixed messages on Brexit as well as other well rehearsed issues. If he were replaced by, say, Keir Starmer, Tom Watson, Emily Thornberry or even Jenny Chapman in October then Labour would appeal to a much wider range of centre-left voters looking for an alternative government.

  • Peter Huggins – if Labour fails to win a GE I don’t think anyone outside of the Labour party would have to force Jeremy Corbyn to resign! But their leadership election would be deeply unpleasant and I don’t think we would want to link up in government with them, whoever emerged. And certainly not with the SNP either.
    Also, when you mention Plymouth Moor View and Burton/Uttoxeter, were these just random guesses or are there reasons to suspect possible by elections there?
    Andy Hyde – I think the Maybot was really clear when she resigned that she would be MP till the end of this parliament. She could of course renege on that, but my impression of her is that she is quite stubborn when she’s truck a deal!

  • Thanks peter. I wasn’t aware of those local situations. North Antrim would just vote in another DUP MP, I expect, even if Paisley did resign. Even a Remain Alliance between the SDLP, SDF and… well Alliance, wouldn’t stand much chance there.
    Of course, even if Johnson does lose a few more seats, that doesn’t necessarily mean his government will fall. There are various Independent MPs who might not back a No Confidence vote. I hate to say it, but I’m not sure Steven Lloyd would, if it was linked to Brexit. And then there’s Kate Hoey!

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Aug '19 - 11:04am

    A letter from Laura Gordon’s campaign, received yesterday, said that she is
    “doing the job of an MP because Labour didn’t even check their candidate was up to the job.”
    She wants help NOW and donations are welcome to LauraGordon.org.uk/donate.

  • Nonconformistradical 23rd Aug '19 - 4:29pm

    https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/jared-omara-mp-arrested-suspicion-18992991

    “It is understood police raided the MP’s constituency office a week ago and he has since been released pending further investigation”

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