Controversial councillor in bid to become MP

A CONTROVERSIAL councillor slammed for making derogatory comments about Roman Catholics is among the first candidates to put their name forward for selection to become Labour's candidate to replace disgraced South Yorkshire MP Eric Illsley.

Illsley, who has represented Barnsley Central since 1987, decided to stand down after admitting criminal charges relating to fiddling expenses.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud - totalling 14,500 - at Southwark Crown Court and will be sentenced next month.

Coun Tim Cheetham, Labour member for Royston on Barnsley Council, and the authority's cabinet spokesman for corporate services, has confirmed his interest.

He previously mounted an unsuccessful bid to become candidate in Barnsley East when Jeff Ennis stood down.

The councillor, 44, said: "The leadership is different now. I will be putting my name forward."

In 2009, Coun Cheetham sparked outrage when he made comments on microblogging website Twitter after watching Roman Catholics venerate the relics of St Thrse of Lisieux on television.

"With all those slobbering zealots kissing that glass case, I hope it has some mystical power to prevent swine flu," he wrote.

He told The Star: "I made a full apology and have received absolution from my church-going friends and party members.

"I have been a councillor for five years and sat for re-election since then, winning with an increased majority, so I don't think the remark will cause any problems."

Coun Linda Burgess, cabinet spokesman for children, young people and families, who represents Darton West, has also confirmed her interest.

She said: "If there is an opportunity to represent Barnsley, and try to get the best for Barnsley, I have to go for it."

The leader of the Labour-run council, Coun Steve Houghton, ruled himself out but said he was "hopeful" a local candidate will be selected.

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