Labour has confirmed it will hold by-elections for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, and Ogmore, on the same May date as the London mayoral and local elections, providing a further electoral test for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Party whips confirmed a May 5 date for the polls, which were triggered by the death of Harry Harpham and the decision by Huw Irranca-Davies to stand down and seek election to the Welsh assembly.
Labour’s candidate in Sheffield is Gill Furniss, a veteran councillor and widow of Harpham, a widely-respected former miner who died from cancer last month. Harpham was elected only last year to succeed David Blunkett.
In Wales the local party chose Chris Elmore, also a councillor and cabinet member for children’s services and schools in the Vale of Glamorgan, as the candidate. The resignation of Irranca-Davies prompted speculation that he could seek to lead Welsh Labour in the Assembly.
Both by-elections are virtually certain to be won by Labour but supporters and critics of Corbyn have been setting out their definition of success in the local, London and parliamentary contests in May.
In the most recent Commons by-election Labour held Oldham West and Royton – triggered by the death of Michael Meacher – with ease despite weeks of speculation about a close contest. Jim McMahon won with a 10.722 majority which was immediately hailed by Corbyn as vindication of his anti-austerity campaign.