‘Hallam deserves a lot better’ – Independents join battle for key Sheffield seat

The battle to represent Sheffield Hallam at Westminster is hotting up after two independent candidates announced their intention to stand in December’s general election.

Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 1:16 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 5:56 pm
Gareth Arnold and Liz Aspden.

With the much-anticipated poll just five weeks away, two candidates from outside the main parties have thrown their hat in the ring in the contest to replace absentee MP Jared O’Mara.

Last week, the MP’s former ‘chief of staff’ Gareth Arnold, whose public resignation in July plunged the former nightclub DJ’s time in office into fresh turmoil, said he would be a candidate.

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And now Liz Aspden, a pub landlady from Sheffield who once claimed she was ‘beaten up’ by one Mr O’Mara’s bouncers outside his nightclub, has also announced her intention to stand.

Liz, 44, who runs the Harlequin pub on Nursery Street, said she was ‘realistic’ about her chances of winning the seat, and that the incident at West Street Live had no bearing on her decision to run.She said: “I grew up in the area and I know it has been neglected for a very long time. Realistically the winner is probably going to come from the main parties but they can’t represent Hallam.

“The main parties are all focused on Brexit and are ignoring other issues which affect the community like the environment, active travel and moving away from the car as the default method of transport.

“What happened with the bouncer was a long time ago and is all done and dusted but Jared’s record speaks for itself to be honest. I still have family and friends in the area and they deserve a lot better.”

Political interview - Sheffield Hallam's Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Laura Gordon.

Liz said she had not yet put in her nomination papers but that she planned to do so next week. The deadline for candidates is Thursday, November 14.

Mr O’Mara’s former ‘chief of staff’ Gareth Arnold also announced his intention to stand on Twitter last week.

Replying to concerns over his involvement with Mr O’Mara on Twitter, Mr Arnold admitted the period was ‘atrocious’ and said: “I want to make sure that never happens again.”

He said: “If you remember I called him out on his b*******. No other staffer did. Hallam needs someone [to] represent them not an O’Mara follow up act. I care about Hallam.”

Former Sheffield Council deputy leader, Councillor Olivia Blake.

He added: “I recognise in some people's minds I'm not the ideal candidate but I hope my compassionate and drive will connect with voters.”

If elected Mr Arnold said he would hold weekly six-hour surgeries, and improve social and mental health care provision, support for the homeless, and green policies.

Also announced as candidates for the seat are former Sheffield Council deputy leader Olivia Blake for Labour, Laura Gordon for the Lib Dems and Natalie Thomas for the Greens.

The Sheffield Hallam Conservatives, however, are yet to choose their candidate in a seat they held until 1997, and Mr O’Mara himself has not said if he will be a candidate either.

Natalie Thomas from the Green Party.

In July, he announced his intention to resign, but ‘postponed’ the decision in September.

If Mr O’Mara doesn’t stand, he would not be eligible for the so-called ‘parachute payments’ losing MPs receive, which could be as much as £22,000.