Sheffield Hallam constituents speak out on MP turmoil – ‘We feel neglected’

People living in Sheffield Hallam have expressed disappointment about their MP Jared O’Mara's time in office after he announced his intention to resign.

By Georgina Truss
Tuesday, 30 July, 2019, 16:38
Jared O'Mara.

The politician – whose reputation has never truly recovered after misogynistic and homophobic comments he had made online surfaced in 2017, shortly after he beat Nick Clegg in that year’s snap General Election – has said he will quit after he became mired in further controversy.

Mr O’Mara’s former chief of staff, Gareth Arnold, left his job with a series of explosive, harshly-worded postings on Twitter, and 20-year-old aide Jen Barnes accused the MP of sexual harassment.

The Star visited Crookes, in the Hallam constituency, where people said they had felt neglected and unrepresented.

Rebecca Atkinson, at Unwrapped in Crookes.

Lab technician Lynsey Kennedy, aged 45, said she thought he should have resigned earlier.

“He’s been spending a lot of taxpayers’ money and has not really been able to be held accountable,” she said.

“He is a joke, I don’t think he was mentally well enough to maintain the position.”

O’Mara has previously discussed struggling with his mental health and ‘self-medicating’. He has cerebral palsy and autism, and during a brief honeymoon period in 2017 pledged to be a champion for disability rights.

Laura Gordon.

Lynsey added: “I do feel sorry for him but they didn’t trigger the right kind of back-up that should have been in place.”

Anne Cotton, 34 and a stay-at-home mum, said: “I guess I am kind of mixed about him. Disabled people must be able to become MPs but he just hasn’t been able to do the job so I am glad he has resigned.

“I think most people voted for him because he represented Labour and it was a vote against the Lib Dems.”

O’Mara quit the Labour party and opted to sit as an independent in July last year, following a temporary suspension in October 2017.

Anne continued: “Once he wasn’t part of Labour there should have been a by-election. I know you do officially vote for the person, but I think the majority of us voted for the party.”

Rebecca Atkinson, a 35-year-old shop assistant at Unwrapped on Crookes high street, has seen first-hand how upset her community is.

“I think he is in a very difficult position, especially with the mental health issues he has spoken about, so for him, it was a good idea to leave.

“But for us as a community, although we haven’t needed his help, a lot of people are frustrated that we aren’t being represented in the big issues. Particularly as a majority of us voted to remain during the referendum.”

The MP has faced criticism over his attendance record in Parliament, particularly after missing a key Brexit vote earlier this year.

Rebecca added: “What our MP does really has a direct impact on our everyday life and our future. Just one or two votes, either way, could have an impact in parliament, especially if we have a no-deal Brexit, it will not only directly affect our shop but our customers too.”

Many Crookes residents felt O’Mara brought hardly anything to their area. Wendy Pot, a 49-year-old cleaner, feels getting a new MP can only bring positivity to her community. “It will provide us with stability more than anything.”

Teacher Barry Pierce, 64, is also pleased he is resigning. “I’m pleased there is an opportunity for another MP and I hope this area reverts to its natural inclination, its natural stance. With the state of the current political climate, we’re in such a mess generally that we lack a lot of people with principle at the top.”

Although many locals are angry, Rebecca can sympathise with O’Mara: “It is a very difficult position, people initially voted him in and many of those are very angry, but personally I was worried. It is not just another figure resigning who has done wrong, there is a deep human aspect behind it all.”

He has indicated he will step down on September 3 after Parliament’s summer recess ends. Laura Gordon, the Liberal Democrat’s prospective parliamentary candidate in Hallam, will be campaigning hard to win back the seat for her party.