Labour has selected NHS worker Simon Lightwood, who is also a member of the party’s national policy forum and sits on Yorkshire Labour’s regional board, as its candidate for the upcoming by-election in Wakefield.
Following a vote of local members on Sunday afternoon, Lightwood said: “Wakefield deserves a fresh start, and someone who is going to be their voice at Westminster, help people through the cost of living crisis, fix our broken transport system and ensure people feel safe on our streets.”
A by-election is set to take place in Wakefield after the former Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy. The now ex-Tory MP resigned his position last month.
Lightwood said the constituency had been “without an MP and a voice in Westminster for over a year” and urged the Conservatives to set a date for the by-election as soon as possible. No date has yet been determined.
He added: “It is an honour to be the Labour candidate for Wakefield. 20 years ago I joined the Labour Party here in Wakefield, and for ten years I lived, studied and worked in this great city. We have a lot to be proud of in Wakefield, and a huge amount of strength and resilience in our communities, but the Conservatives and their disgraced MP Imran Ahmad Khan have failed us.
“Times are much tougher than they should be for hardworking people across our constituency. We are in a cost of living crisis, and in Wakefield, real wages will fall by £1,100 this year on average because of spiralling inflation. It’s time we sent a clear message to Boris Johnson that enough is enough, because Wakefield and the country deserve so much better. I will fight tooth and nail for our hard working communities.”
Lightwood and rival candidate Kate Dearden set out their stall to members this afternoon in a hustings but, just before the vote, members of the local party’s executive committee left the meeting in protest over how the selection process had been run by the party. 132 members were present at the start of the meeting. Sources told LabourList that one individual has threatened to take legal action.
LabourList reported earlier this week that the party had been accused of breaching its own rules by limiting the number of local party representatives allowed to participate in the longlisting and shortlisting for the selection process.
In an email seen by LabourList, the regional director of the North West Labour Party can be seen telling a member of the Wakefield Constituency Labour Party (CLP) executive that “there is one place available to the CLP on the panel to decide upon the longlist and the shortlist” in the process to select the candidate.
The local executive alleged that the instruction breached a recent change to the party’s rules but agreed to send just one rep. According to a rule change passed at the last annual party conference, the panel should include three local reps.
Labour determined late last year that the Momentum-backed rule change passed at conference was “inexpertly drafted” and requires NEC guidance to clarify it. According to a statement by NEC officers, the new guidance states:
“wherever the statutory timetable for nomination of candidates allows it – CLPs and the regional executive committee a say in the shortlisting process, with the final selection going to an all-member ballot”
The executive committee of the Wakefield local party later shared a statement with LabourList on its unanimous decision to resign following the move to shortlist Dearden and Lightwood, both of whom do not live in the constituency.
Wakefield had been held by Labour for 87 years until the 2019 general election when Mary Creagh was ousted by Imran Ahmad Khan, who took the seat with a 3,358-vote majority. He had the whip suspended after allegations of sexual assault emerged before being convicted last month of assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008.