Updated: Friday, 24th November 2017 @ 8:08am

'Where my heart is': Oldham leader among candidates to replace late Michael Meacher

'Where my heart is': Oldham leader among candidates to replace late Michael Meacher

| By James Dawson

The leader of Oldham Council is among a number of Labour Party figures to put themselves forward to be candidate in the up-coming Oldham West and Royton by-election.

The by-election will be held on December 3, following the death of veteran MP Michael Meacher, who had represented his constituents since 1970.

Ahead of a shortlist being presented to the 640 members of Oldham West and Royton Constituency Labour Party eligible to vote, for selection on Thursday November 5.

The Oldham Council leader, Jim McMahon, who is a favourite to be selected, announced his application for candidacy in an open letter to Oldham’s councillors.

He said: “It is true that I have been asked and that I’ve discounted the chance to stand in the past.

“But this is different. This is about Oldham and it’s where my heart is. I feel that if I didn’t apply I would look back and be asking ‘what if?'.

"In recent years we've seen the council's budget slashed, services cut and our people hit hardest by austerity.

"Despite this we've worked wonders together to create a positive vision of hope – but the truth is we are not an island. 

"Oldham is directly affected by government and it is vital that it has a strong voice in Westminster.

“I want to step forward and give Oldham a real community champion in that role to continue Michael's work and build our influence where it can really make a difference.”

The deadline for applications to stand as Labour’s candidate was noon today, with candidates now being vetted by the party’s National Executive Committee.

Mr McMahon is likely to see strong competition for the candidacy with many, including other Greater Manchester councillors, keen to take the candidacy of the seat Mr Meacher held for 45 years.

But despite this, Labour success in the by-election cannot be taken for granted by the party.

UKIP finished second in the constituency during May’s General Election, and it is now likely to be target by the controversial far-right party.

Among those thought to have applied for Labour’s candidacy are Manchester City councillors Amina Lone, Julie Read and June Hitchins.

Along with Oldham councillors Shoab Akhtar and Abdul Jabbar, and other national figures from within the party.

Cllr Abdul Jabbar said he had put his name forward to be the Labour candidate ‘following request s from many members and friends.’

He told MM: “I know and live in this constituency and I am deeply committed to serving the diverse communities that live within it.

“I have lived in this constituency for the last 42 years and have served as a local councillor since 1994.

“I understand the challenges faced by this constituency and recognise the dreams and aspiration of its people.”

As the first by-election since his election, the contest will be seen as one of the first tests of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Michael Meacher was a vocal supporter of Mr Corbyn and he will be hoping constituency members select a candidate who will lend him similar support.

However, party rules mean the 70 new party members, who signed-up to the party in the constituency since May’s General Election will be ineligible to help choose Labour’s candidate.

Close advisor to the Labour leader, Jon Landsman, who was thought a potential candidate, has already ruled himself out of the running in the contest.

And Kate Godfrey, a loud critic of Mr Corbyn on social media, who previously said ‘there was no-one better qualified to understand’ issues around devolution in Oldham, on Friday announced she had been informed her application was unsuccessful.