On June 9th 2017, Labour learned they had pulled off a nationwide shock. A big name casualty of the night was Nick Clegg, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats. Many credited his betrayal of students, in a University town, as a key factor in his defeat. It was a brilliant result for Labour, who snatched the constituency with Jared O’Mara as its candidate.
On 25th October 2017, O’Mara was suspended from the Labour Party after making sexist, racist and homophobic comments in the past. Ironically, he was made a member of the Women and Equalities Select Committee shortly after becoming an MP. In 2004, he said on a music website that singer Michelle McManus only won Pop Idol “because she was fat”. He also made comments including referring to gay men as “poofters” and “fudge packers” and said that a jazz musician should be “sodomised with his own piano”. To further show his disgusting attitude, he has been accused of being foul-mouthed to a woman he met on a dating app, Sophie Evans. Evans said these comments “aren’t broadcastable”.
We can of course question how he’s been reinstated, and indeed we will. The real question is how did he become a candidate in the first place? Clearly the vetting procedures that Labour conduct normally have not been followed.
Labour has a responsibility to the country and Sheffield Hallam to select the best possible candidate. This is blatantly not the case. It has been rumoured Labour believed the seat unwinnable at the time of selecting a candidate and with this belief and the short time it would seem O’Mara was not vetted properly. Granted, the comments were posted a long time ago when he was young, but that is no excuse.
Since his election, O’Mara has still not given his maiden speech, he doesn’t meet his constituents, and he barely attends Parliament. He has still not even asked an oral question. Since his ‘apology’ on October 23rd, he has not spoken publicly in his constituency and doesn’t hold constituency surgeries, a real necessity of an MP’s job. A press statement released in December 2017 claimed he was on ‘medical leave’. This has however been disputed by many. His website also claimed that he was busy with residents casework, and while in some cases this is true, he hasn’t put in the work overall that an MP should. He’s not deserving of the office of MP. He’s not deserving of the chance to serve the country. And he most definitely is not deserving of the chance to represent the Labour Party.
A local resident told The Peoples News that “Outside of the scandals, I don’t think there is much to say.” The resident cited the fact O’Mara has “Never made a maiden speech” and “has some appalling views”. This, coupled with the fact he’s made very few parliament visits shows that it’s not just his backwards views that are the problem here, but also the fact he’s a genuinely incompetent MP who has let his constituents down.
His reinstation is pure cowardice from Labour. Labour fear losing the seat. They know expelling O’Mara might simply cause him to resign his position as MP, causing a By-election. This by-election would gain national coverage and end up playing into both the Tories and the Lib Dems hands. With most students back home and a slim majority, the Liberal Democrats would be in prime position to retake the seat. Instead, Labour will keep hold of the seat until the next General Election and hope O’Mara makes the difference in key votes to redeem himself.
There is a chance expulsion would not have caused a by-election, O’Mara would stay for the rest of his term as an independent, but it would seem the Labour Party will not take that risk.
Personally, I think that it would be less damaging to lose the seat than allow a vile misogynist back into the party. Sheffield Hallam CLP is rumoured to have plans to deselect O’Mara and not even the most moderate in the party could complain there. He’s breached the Code of Conduct, he’s disrespected the party, he’s disrespected parliament, and to be quite frank, he’s a disgrace to the country. Labour has shown that they are willing to look the other way at homophobia and sexism if you have political power. Considering their opposition to the appointment of Toby Young, Labour are now hypocrites and I’m appalled by the decision. You’d be lucky to find anyone who does agree with his reinstatement.
Labour must set a precedent. Misogyny, racism, homophobia etc have no place in the Labour Party, nor in society on the whole. We must stamp it out, and the first step in doing this is by deselecting Jared O’Mara.