Former Clegg rival to seek selection in Sheffield by-election

The first candidate vying to stand in a by-election following the death of Sheffield MP Harry Harpham has been confirmed today.

Thursday, 18th February 2016, 14:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th February 2016, 14:25 pm
Oliver Coppard is seeking selection as the Labour candidate for Hillsborough and Brightside

Oliver Coppard, who took on then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at last year’s general election in the seat of Sheffield Hallam, is now seeking selection as the Labour candidate for Hillsborough and Brightside.

Applications for the internal selection process opened today, and a final Labour candidate is expected to be confirmed on March 2.

There is not yet a firm date for the by-election to take place after 61-year-old father Mr Harpham died of cancer two weeks ago, but Sheffield Council has said it is likely to be held in mid March.

Mr Coppard, who reduced Liberal Democrat Mr Clegg’s 15,000-strong majority to 2,353 votes in a hotly contested race last May, said: “I’m putting myself forward for this selection and asking for the support of local members so I can take the fight for working people, for a fairer society and for a better Sheffield to Parliament.

“I’ve been really grateful for the support and encouragement I’ve already received from local people and from members of the Labour Party across the city.

“My priorities are clear: I want Brightside and Hillsborough to be a more prosperous and safer place to live, with more support for the most vulnerable, more opportunities for the next generation, and more investment in our community and the services that we all rely on.”

Former miner and deputy council leader Mr Harpham was elected as Hillsborough and Brightside’s Labour MP last May, after long-serving, and also Labour, MP Lord David Blunkett stood down.

He had filled the role for less than a year when he died.

More than 300 people attended his funeral at Sheffield Cathedral on Tuesday and paid tribute to the ‘inspirational’ grandfather.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among those who attended.

Former High Storrs School pupil Mr Coppard, who has worked for the Sheffield City Region LEP, is the son of Phil Coppard, the former chief executive of Barnsley Council.

He said: “The next MP for Brightside and Hillsborough will be standing on the shoulders of giants.

“Both Harry and David Blunkett have left huge shoes to fill, but if I am selected I will work tirelessly to do justice to their legacy.

“Any by-election will naturally attract national attention, but I am confident that we can build a positive campaign that not only engages Labour Party members but grows support for the Labour Party across our community.”

The final Labour candidate will be selected after applicants are shortlisted, and then take part in a hustings.

The Star understands that national, as well as local candidates are interested, and there have been several applications so far.

A Labour party spokesman said: “The party is particularly encouraging women to apply.”