David Blunkett: ‘Lessons must be learned’ over the case of Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara
In the light of the latest allegations against Jared O’Mara, I am unable, because of sub judice to comment meaningfully on what this may or may not add up to. Nevertheless I am going to reflect on the wider issues and lessons to be learnt from this case study.
That was the message from former Sheffield MP and Home Secretary David Blunkett, who said he attempted to help Mr O’Mara after he surprisingly took former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg’s seat in the 2017 General Election.
But, after penning a column for The Star’s sister paper Sheffield Telegraph on the former music producer’s turbulent two years in office, Lord Blunkett said the ‘unexpected election’ had led to ‘normal processes of party selection being set aside’.
He said: “We are going to have a General Election before Christmas and after that there are to lessons to learn. One is we really need to make sure the processes are followed and secondly no-one draws the conclusion with a disability can’t represent their fellow men and women because that would be a very unfortunate outcome to what has been a tragedy both for the politician and the consituency.”
Lord Blunkett, who also served as education secretary for almost four years, said he first met Mr O’Mara alongside Sheffield South East MP Clive betts and Nic Dakin, who represents Scunthorpe.
He added: “I didn’t know Jared at all until he was elected so it was in the immediate weeks after the election I first met him.
“It was very clear that Jared – for reasons I understand because of the way the election was called – had not really had time to think through what all this entailed and the enormity of what choosing to stand brought. This was all because normal process wasn’t followed through.”
Mr O’Mara went back on a promise to resign as soon as MPs were back in Westminster after the summer recess.
The Treasury confirmed last week he had written to the Chancellor asking for his resignation to be ‘postponed', meaning he could be in line for a £22,500 pay-off should there be a General Election.
Lord Blunkett added: “I am not apportioning blame but it’s about learning the lessons and the duty of care to both the public and the individual.”
He added that events went ‘drastically wrong for both Jared and the people he sought to serve’ when he unexpectedly took the then deputy prime minister Nick Clegg’s seat.
Writing in the Telegraph Lord Blunkett, who has been blind since birth, said: “In a different world where Parliamentary support systems and understanding both mental and physical health was greater and when a period of induction was a practical possibility, things might have been very different. But that is not the world we live in. You are literally thrown in at the deep end and adjustment, both physical and otherwise, has to be immediate.
“I know because I experienced it myself in very different circumstances back in 1987.
“The margin of swimming or sinking is a tiny one. Help has to be offered and accepted. There must be recognition and understanding of the challenges and difficulties faced by the individual. In politics, the world is very unforgiving.”
Mr O’Mara could not be reached for comment.