‘This is an unprecedented situation. We need an MP’ – Jared O’Mara’s constituents take back control of Sheffield Hallam
Sheffield Hallam voters angry at being left to fend for themselves by absent MP Jared O’Mara last night began taking back control of their own constituency.
On Sunday evening, a group of ordinary members of the public gathered in St Mark’s Church in Broomhill to demand representation, support and a promise the frustration of the last two years will never be repeated.
Having started life as a Facebook page - Hallam Constituents - the group now want to widen their scope to include more direct action, including pressuring councillors to help with casework and asking candidates to sign a pledge committing themselves to the people of the constituency.
Mr O’Mara’s actions over the last few weeks had left them with little choice, they argued.
Having said he would step down when Parliament returned on Tuesday, the independent MP unexpectedly withdrew his resignation last week.
This left his constituents without an MP at one of the most pivotal political moments of modern times and others with important casework with no support whatsoever.
For many, this lack of support in the constituency was an even more important issue than the complete absence of any representation in Parliament.
One person at the meeting said she had been trying to get Mr O’Mara to help her autistic son get the help he needed from the education service.
After three failed meetings, including one cancelled with just half an hour’s notice, she said his team had ‘ghosted’ her ever since.
Another was promised his MP would vote on a bill guaranteeing the right of refugee children which he never attended and wasn’t able to explain why.
And another talked about her experience with Hallam’s previous MP Nick Clegg, who - for all his faults - was always accessible to the public even when serving as Deputy Prime Minister.
Group organiser, Sinead Parkinson, said: “This is an unprecedented situation which has real consequences for people.
“I am frustrated as I would imagine you are all frustrated but I am really proud that we have come together. Ultimately we need an MP.”
As well as constituents explaining how Mr O’Mara had let them down, others talked about his open contempt for them, even going so far as to block them on social media if they challenged him on his lack of action.
And his recent change of heart on resignation was viewed by most as a selfish realisation he would get a £20,000 redundancy payment if he stands and is defeated at the next election.
But as well an anger in the room there was also sadness and concern for a man whose problems had been played out in the media for all to see and who could have used his life experiences to help people like him who suffer from disabilities or mental health problems.
“He could have made a real difference to disability policy but he squandered it,” said Sarah Rousseau.
“But we need to stop talking about him as an individual and start talking about the situation. This is our constituency and there is nothing we can do about it. I am raging.”
As well as continuing to put pressure on politicians at both a local and a national level, the group unveiled a pledge that could ensure the current situation will never be repeated.
They hope the promise, that future representatives will attend at least 60 per cent of House of Commons business, will be signed by all Hallam candidates at the next election.
The group’s website can be found by searching for Hallam Constituents on Facebook.