What next for controversial Sheffield MP Jared O'Mara after surprise return to parliament?

Sheffield’s absentee MP Jared O’Mara confounded expectations by making a surprise appearance for Saturday’s crunch Brexit vote.

Sunday, 20th October 2019, 11:28 am
Updated Monday, 21st October 2019, 4:17 pm
Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O'Mara on his way to London to vote (pic: David Cross/CODA Architects)

But when confronted at Westminster, the Sheffield Hallam MP refused to answer questions about whether he now plans to return to parliament for good or honour his previous promise to step down.

Instead, he threatened to call police when questioned by a reporter, and claimed he had been ‘hounded’ by the media.

Jared voted for the amendment which derailed, at least temporarily, Boris Johnson’s new Brexit deal – which will probably have pleased most voters in his constituency, where it is estimated the majority backed remain in the EU referendum.

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How South Yorkshire's MPs voted on Brexit today

But his unexpected appearance, which comes six months since he last sat at Westminster in April, and after he has missed several other key Brexit votes, will likely have done little to satisfy those constituents left fuming at their lack of representation.

There had been speculation the country’s future could rest in his hands, with many analysts suggesting the vote was too close to call.

As it turned out, the amendment was passed by a majority of 16 and there was no vote on the deal itself.

The Star visited Mr O’Mara’s flat in Kelham Island on Saturday morning to ask whether he intended to vote, only to find it uninhabited and be told by one neighbour he had not been seen for around a month.

It turned out he was already on a train to London, where he was snapped by one of his disgruntled constituents in a first class coach surrounded by campaigners travelling down to take part in the pro-remain rally.

David Cross, the founder of CODA Architects, who took the photo, said: “I was very surprised to see him, given what a hard shift he’s put in this year.

“I’m a remainer but even if he votes against Brexit I can’t forgive him for anything.

“He’s an absolute disgrace. He should have done the decent thing and resigned so a by-election could be held.”

Mr O’Mara’s relatively brief time as an MP has been mired in controversy almost from the moment he sensationally ousted former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg from the seat in 2017.

He was soon embroiled in a scandal over sexist and homophobic comments he had posted on social media in his early 20s, and he later quit Labour to become an independent, criticising the party over his treatment during its investigation into those posts.

Mr O’Mara, who has cerebral palsy and autism, was rarely seen at Westminster, claiming too little was done to support MPs like him with disabilities and speaking too about his battle with mental health problems.

Constituents also expressed their anger at his failure to respond to emails and phone calls or hold surgeries.

In April this year, he suspended work at his constituency office for a month, following reports all his staff had either been sacked or resigned.

And in July, one of his new employees, Gareth Arnold, used the MP’s own Twitter account to publicly resign and lambast his former boss.

Mr O’Mara was then accused by a former female employee of sexual harassment and he announced later that month that he would step down.

But the Treasury, which administers MP resignations, later revealed he had postponed this move.

No explanation for that U-turn has since been forthcoming, nor has there been any word from Mr O’Mara about his intentions.

When approached in parliament on Saturday, he refused to answer any questions about his record or plans.

A man with him - believed to be his father - confirmed he would be voting that day, before Mr O'Mara beckoned him away and told him not to speak.

It is not known whether Mr O’Mara intends to be back in parliament this coming week – or at any point in the future – or whether he plans to step down before voters get their say at the next general election.