The biggest story that has dominated political headlines this past week – apart from Brexit – has been the alleged comments made by new Labour MP Jared O’Mara. Guidio Fox reported that over a decade ago O’Mara made several offensive remarks online, for which he has apologised for, according to the BBC.
More recently however, O’Mara was accused on the BBC’s Tuesday edition of the Daily Politics by a woman called Sophie Evans of making more recent offensive remarks - this time allegedly directed towards her earlier this year before O'Mara was an MP. The BBC has also reported that Jared O’Mara has denied Evans’ allegation, and has been suspended from the Labour party. Jared O’Mara was set to be forever remembered as the man who beat former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in his Sheffield Hallam constituency this year, but O’Mara’s story could end not the way he planned.
First off, it is worth reiterating that the accusations against O’Mara are still allegations and that the party is investigating the matter. However, what could happen if a by-election results from these recent events?
In July this year, Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris was suspended from her party for making offensive remarks, as reported by the BBC, and still sits as an independent MP. O’Mara could be reinstated or continue to sit as an independent MP. If however, political pressure continues to mount, he could feel he should step down.
If such a situation were to occur, stemming from the alleged comments, could Sheffield Hallam hold a by-election and could Nick Clegg mount an impressive comeback?
The short answer is probably not. Liberal Democrat blogger Mark Pack reported in July that Clegg sent a letter to his constituents saying that “I think it’s time for a change, for someone else to take up the challenge as the local Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, and so I will not be seeking to stand again.”
It therefore looks likely that Nick Clegg will not be making a return to the Commons in the coming years, however, the letter is probably based on the assumption of there not being another election for at least two or three years - or even five if the parliament lasts that long.
If O’Mara does end up resigning, something which looks unlikely at this stage and will remain uncertain until the Labour party’s investigation reaches a verdict either way, then a by-election so soon after a general election would present a golden opportunity to the Liberal Democrats.
A new candidate would not have the same electoral history and political gravitas that Nick Clegg did. In the event of a by-election, there is a chance Nick Clegg would follow in the footsteps of Jo Swinson, Vince Cable and Ed Davey and make a big political comeback.
Watch this space.