Politics

Labour in-fighting: Why Keir Starmer has a major headache over Wakefield by-election

John McDonnell comments on Starmer's 'resignation' vow

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Last month the ex-MP for Wakefield, Imran Ahmad Khan, was forced to step down following a child abuse conviction. His exit has paved the way for a by-election to be held in the west Yorkshire city. Labour will hope to regain the seat they had previously held for 89 years until the 2019 general election. But the party is now in turmoil after announcing its shortlist of candidates.

On Friday it was announced that a mass resignation of the executive committee for the Wakefield Labour Party had taken place.

A meeting of the executive was tabled on Friday before members agreed to resign with immediate effect.

All 16 members decided to step down after Labour had announced no representatives from the city had been shortlisted to run as the party’s candidate.

The final two candidates were Kate Dearden and Simon Lightwood – but neither are from Wakefield.

A standoff between the national and local party also saw three local candidates kept off the shortlist, including the deputy council leader Jack Hemingway.

One member of the committee told Sky News: “The Labour Party haven’t learnt and they’re not listening.

“The rule book has just been through the window and I’m furious. People are hitting the ceiling about it.

“That’s everyone gone. Imagine the party will have to come in. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer now faces a difficult predicament as his party attempts to regain a constituency it had once held for nearly a century.

No date has yet been set for the by-election which could give Sir Keir more time to mull over Labour’s choice of candidacy.

At one stage, former shadow chancellor and Labour MP Ed Balls was said to be under consideration for the seat, but he ruled himself out last month.

Sir Keir has said he’s confident Labour can win back support with residents in Wakefield and has promised to “put up an excellent candidate”.

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He told the Yorkshire Post: “What we’ve seen is a disgraced Tory MP who has been completely absent for over a year, not fighting for his constituents. Wakefield deserves so much better than that.

“The sooner we have a Labour MP there, fiercely defending and representing his or her constituents, the better.”

One candidate Sir Keir could consider putting up for nomination is Mr Hemingway, who said he was “disappointed” at not being listed by the party.

He tweeted: “As one of the established local candidates in the constituency, I’m naturally disappointed not to make the longlist for the Wakefield parliamentary seat determined by the Labour National Executive Committee.”

The deputy council leader said he had “been working for local communities” in Wakefield and would have “relished” the chance to put his case forward for being the candidate in the area.

Mr Hemingway thanked everyone who had supported his campaign and added “the most important thing right now is winning Wakefield back for Labour”.

Previously, in the 2019 general election Mr Ahmad Khan defeated the Labour candidate, Mary Creagh, with a victorious 47.3 percent of the vote.

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