LabourList has learnt that a Labour Party selection panel has drawn up a ‘longlist’ of one candidate – Paul Williams – for the Hartlepool parliamentary by-election that is expected by party insiders to be held on May 6th.
Sources have said the move was championed by Jenny Chapman, who was MP for Darlington until 2019, then chaired Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign and now works as director of politics in the leader of the opposition’s office.
The Hartlepool selection and by-election were triggered when Mike Hill resigned with immediate effect as Hartlepool MP on Tuesday. Hill is facing an employment tribunal hearing in May over sexual harassment claims that he strongly denies.
Labour set a notably speedy timetable on the same day of the resignation, which LabourList published exclusively. The longlisting was scheduled to take place today, the shortlisting today or tomorrow and a local hustings on Friday or Saturday.
A leaked letter showed that the local Labour secretary in Hartlepool wanted a selection shortlist comprising only Paul Williams. This was described as “fairly controversial” in the letter, which predicted that some in the party would “call foul”.
The memo from the local party executive also expressed the view that “the party and Paul aren’t quite as well informed as we’d like them to be re the town and our electorate” and suggested meetings would be needed to address the point.
Paul Williams served as Labour MP for Stockton South from 2017, when he won the seat from the Conservatives, to 2019, when the Tories took back the constituency while winning an 80-seat majority in parliament.
While in parliament, he represented a Leave seat but broke the party whip a number of times to express his support for another Brexit referendum in House of Commons votes. Hartlepool also voted by a majority to leave the EU.
As a general practitioner (GP), Williams returned full-time to NHS work after losing his seat in the Commons, and LabourList understands that he is currently a doctor at one of the vaccination centres in Hartlepool.
The ex-MP was given an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2020 New Year Honours list for services to the NHS. He is currently running to be a Labour police and crime commissioner but is expected to run for parliament in May instead.
The leaked local letter from the Labour Hartlepool secretary suggested that “Jon” – thought to be teacher and local council candidate Jonathan Brash – would take Williams’ place as Labour’s PCC candidate in the May election.
LabourList has contacted Labour for comment and will update this article if the party responds.