Potential Labour Party candidates are preparing to stand in the parliamentary constituency of Wakefield, ahead of a by-election that could soon take place but has not been confirmed and may not be held.
Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan, who took the seat from Labour as a Tory candidate in 2019, is set to go on trial after being accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008, which he has denied “in the strongest terms”.
The MP is suspended by the Conservative Party pending the outcome of the case and currently sits as an Independent. He pleaded not guilty when he appeared in court in September and his trial is expected to start on March 28th.
If any MP receives a custodial sentence of less than a year, a recall petition is triggered requiring 10% of local voters to sign to force a by-election, but one of 12 months or more triggers an automatic by-election.
LabourList understands that Jack Hemingway, deputy leader of Wakefield Council, is considered the frontrunner among the possible candidates that the Labour Party could pick to contest the seat if a by-election is held.
He announced his intention to run on Facebook last week, saying he has a “proven record of beating the Tories”, but the deputy council leader also added that “right now, we all need to concentrate on the local elections”.
Other potential Labour candidates for Wakefield include Sam Howarth, who works for Labour MP and outgoing South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis, and used to work for ex-MP and Keir Starmer ally Jenny Chapman.
Law student Jakob Williamson is also tipped to be interested in standing, while Wakefield West councillor and teacher Michael Graham – who is on Labour’s future candidates programme – is known to be keen.
Simon Lightwood, an NHS worker who is a member of Labour’s national policy forum and Yorkshire Labour’s regional board, is rumoured to be in the running. The name of Community union’s Kate Dearden has also been in the mix, but LabourList can confirm that she is not standing.
“This time is has to be someone properly local,” a local source told LabourList. “People there actually have the ability to be proud of ‘one of their own’ in politics, if it’s someone who speaks their mind and stands up for them.”
Mary Creagh was the Labour MP for Wakefield from 2005 until 2019, when Imran Ahmad Khan stood as a Conservative candidate and overturned her 2,176 majority to secure a majority of 3,358 votes.
There is no talk of Creagh being interested in a Wakefield by-election, but she is reportedly seeking to challenge Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North. She was an Islington councillor and the Labour group leader there at one time.
If a by-election is held, Labour’s selection process for Wakefield is thought likely to take place in early April or in June, with a view to getting someone in place before a contest in July or September.
Ahmad Khan has pleaded not guilty and denies the allegation against him. While preparations are being made by potential candidates in case a contest takes place, the MP could be acquitted in which case there would be no by-election in Wakefield.