Wakefield Labour is speedily picking a candidate. Here’s what is happening

Elliot Chappell
Wakefield, West Yorkshire. © Dawid Dobosz/Shutterstock.com
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Wakefield Labour is busy picking its candidate for the upcoming by-election. Members had until Monday at midnight to apply and longlisting is taking place today. Applicants include: Community union’s Kate Dearden; deputy leader of Wakefield Council Jack Hemingway; Sam Howarth, who works for Labour MP and outgoing South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis and used to work for Keir Starmer ally and ex-MP Jenny Chapman; NHS worker Simon Lightwood, who is a member of Labour’s national policy forum and Yorkshire Labour’s regional board; Wakefield West councillor and teacher Michael Graham, who is on Labour’s candidate program; and local member and law student Jakob Williamson.

Having a local candidate is a key driver here. One member said of the disgraced ex-Tory MP Imran Ahmed Khan, whose sexual assault conviction and resignation triggered the by-election: “Even though he was originally from Wakefield, there was no sense of belonging to Wakefield. And I think not having a candidate whose rooted in Wakefield could be detrimental.” Locals wanting to see one of their own represent them is not unusual, of course, but for those I spoke to this consideration is paramount. “It is not about the left, right, middle or whatever else of the party – it’s about that local context,” one member explained. Several said frontrunner and deputy council leader Hemingway could be that local pick.

Dearden is considered by locals to be LOTO’s favoured candidate – something the Dearden camp denies. Her supporters told LabourList that it is “disappointing” that she is “the only candidate being attacked by completely baseless briefings”. They added: “She is her own woman with an incredible record of her own of fighting for social justice as part of the trade union movement and it’s on that basis she’ll be asking Wakefield CLP members to put their trust in her this week.” Concerns have been voiced about how local Dearden is, being from Bradford rather than Wakefield (for anyone else who struggles with geography like I do, Bradford is in West Yorkshire, too, and is around a 35-minute drive from Wakefield). Dearden told me: “I’m proud of my West Yorkshire identity. Growing up and living in Bradford, I know the challenges faced by great Yorkshire cities with industrial heritages constantly let down by the Tories. Wakefield needs an MP who understands the values of its people and who has the strength to fight for them in parliament. I know I can be that champion for this city.”

Shortlisting interviews will be held on Thursday before the would-be parliamentary candidates get the chance to set out their stall to members in a hustings on Sunday – so stay tuned for more. Also on LabourList this morning, Socialist Campaign Group MP Zarah Sultana discusses the Queen’s Speech and her amendment, which outlines five policies to “put the needs of the many before the greed of the few and solve the cost-of-living crisis”. New(ish) Labour MP Christian Wakeford writes about his defection from the Tories and argues that “we have a government bereft of leadership and the public can no longer be conned”. And Katie and I have a list of runners and riders who could replace Keir Starmer should he resign.

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