British Independent politician

Jared Cain O’Mara (born 15 November 1981) is a British former politician who was Member of Parliament (MP) for Sheffield Hallam from 2017 to 2019. Elected as a Labour Party candidate, he left the party in October 2017 and sat as an independent.

Born and educated in Sheffield, O’Mara studied journalism at Staffordshire University before running a Sheffield bar and music venue. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and hemiparesis, as well as being on the autism spectrum. After unsuccessfully contesting several local government elections as a Labour Party candidate, he was elected for Sheffield Hallam at the 2017 general election.

Upon joining Parliament, O’Mara became a member of the Women and Equalities Select Committee but resigned in October 2017, after publication of offensive comments about women and gay men he had made in 2009 and earlier. He was suspended from Labour later in October following further reporting of online comments made before his election described as racist, homophobic and misogynistic. It was reported he had been reinstated to Labour in July 2018, a claim he denied. He subsequently sat as an independent. In July 2019, he announced he would resign as an MP after the summer recess and he stood down at the 2019 general election.

Early life and education[edit]

O’Mara was born in Sheffield on 15 November 1981.[1][2] He was educated at Tapton School, in the city’s Crosspool suburb,[3] and graduated from Staffordshire University with a first class honours degree in Journalism.[4] Before entering politics, he was a local school governor and had volunteered for Sheffield-based disability information services and charities.[4] With friends, he ran West Street Live, a bar and music venue in Sheffield.[5]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Election[edit]

Prior to being elected, O’Mara had stood as a Labour candidate in various Sheffield council elections.[4][6][7][8] He supported Jeremy Corbyn‘s election as Leader of the Labour Party in 2015 and 2016.[9] At the 2017 general election, O’Mara was selected for the constituency of Sheffield Hallam in an emergency selection process for the snap election under the control of the National Executive Committee and regional boards, rather than by the local constituency party.[10] The seat had been held by former Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.[11]

O’Mara’s campaign focused on disabled people’s rights, protecting public services and on his personal background in Sheffield.[9] His campaign benefited from a national surge in the Labour vote and from university students in the constituency.[4][12] It was claimed Nick Clegg was thought to be too anti-Brexit by voters, although Sheffield Hallam was estimated to have voted Remain in the 2016 European Union referendum and O’Mara supports Remain as well.[5] A Momentum supporter, O’Mara was backed by them during the election campaign.[13] He won the seat with a majority of 2,125 votes, overturning Clegg’s previous majority of 2,353 votes. The result was considered one of the most important seat changes of the night; O’Mara had not expected to win the seat.[14][5][15] His acceptance speech called for politicians to do more to stand up for disabled people.[16] O’Mara asked his first written question in October 2017.[17]
During his time as an MP, he campaigned for a second referendum on Brexit and against fracking.[18]

[edit]

O’Mara became a member of the Women and Equalities Select Committee in September 2017.[19] However, a series of misogynistic and homophobic online comments posted by O’Mara over a decade before he became an MP were revealed by the Guido Fawkes site on 23 October 2017.[20][21][22] He commented about the Girls Aloud pop group: “I advise you to sack Sarah and the remaining four members (Nicola, Cheryl, Nadine and Kimberley) come have an orgy with me”; and said the 2003 winner of Pop Idol, Michelle McManus, had “only won because she was fat”.[20][23][24] He had also referred to gay men as “poofters” and “fudge packers” and referred to jazz musician Jamie Cullum as a “conceited cunt” who should be “sodomised with his own piano”.[23][25][26] O’Mara apologised “if his comments caused offence” and resigned from the Women and Equalities Select Committee.[27][23][26] In a later speech, O’Mara said the homophobic words he used were part of an Eminem record he listened to at the time.[28]

The following day, O’Mara was accused by Sophie Evans, a Sheffield bar worker whom he had met through an online dating app, on BBC Two‘s Daily Politics of having “made transphobic slurs” towards her in March 2017, and of saying in the same incident that she was an “ugly bitch”.[29][30] O’Mara denied the allegation.[31] On the same day, it also emerged that he had been posting derogatory comments about children in Sheffield and appeared to advocate corporal punishment to deal with delinquent youth.[32] Following the emergence of the comments to Evans, the Labour Party announced an investigation into O’Mara’s conduct but stopped short of suspending him from the party.[33]

Further revelations were made public on 25 October 2017. He was found to have used racist insults on a Morrissey fan site in 2002, saying that Danes were “pig shaggers” who “practised bestiality” and referring to Spaniards as “dagos“.[34][35] O’Mara, when reviewing the Arctic Monkeys in November 2004, made several sexual comments including how “sexy little slags” danced to the band’s songs.[36] These revelations resulted in O’Mara being suspended from the Labour Party and therefore having the party whip withdrawn.[37] After the party whip was suspended, O’Mara cancelled his constituency surgery and would not speak publicly again for some months afterwards.[38]

Disabilities[edit]

O’Mara has stated that he has cerebral palsy and hemiparesis.[39][40] He claimed in July 2018, after resigning his membership of the Labour Party, that he is on the autism spectrum and believed that he was the first autistic MP in history.[41] Given his disability, it was claimed that the buildings of the House of Commons presented problems for O’Mara as the terms of the Equality Act 2010 are yet to be met.[42] In June 2017, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow allowed MPs not to wear ties in the House of Commons,[43] a decision partly made because O’Mara’s cerebral palsy makes it difficult for him to knot and wear a tie.[18] O’Mara said he would not have run for election had he known these difficulties before becoming an MP.[18] O’Mara supported a zero-tolerance policy on shouting and heckling, saying that he could not attend Prime Minister’s Questions because of his anxiety triggered by aggression in the chamber.[18][44] O’Mara also supported exempting members from interventions during speeches, introducing proxy voting and allowing MPs to make speeches to the House of Commons via online video-stream.[18] He never asked an oral question in the House of Commons.[45]

In December 2017, a press statement explained O’Mara would be on a leave of absence on the advice of his general practitioner, who had discouraged him from attending Parliament, although O’Mara would continue to deal with his constituent casework.[46]

After three months’ absence, O’Mara returned to the House of Commons on 17 January 2018 and voted on the report stage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.[47]

On 18 July 2018, O’Mara announced he would step back from his parliamentary duties on the advice of his GP.[48] This coincided with a series of crucial votes on the Brexit negotiations, for which reason O’Mara had unsuccessfully applied to vote by proxy.[41][49] In March 2019, O’Mara was absent for another series of key Brexit votes, having suffered an injury in the shower. After facing calls from his constituents to resign, O’Mara likened them to “a hooligan on the terraces threatening the referee whilst drinking flat lager and smelling of processed meats.”[50][51]

Reinstatement and resignation from Labour Party[edit]

On 3 July 2018, it was announced that O’Mara would be readmitted to the Labour Party, following a review by its National Executive Committee disputes panel. This review had decided to issue O’Mara a formal warning with a mandatory requirement to attend training, rather than refer the issue to the National Constitutional Committee which has the power to expel members.[52] The decision was criticised by local Liberal Democrats, the closest challengers to Labour in Sheffield Hallam.[53] In an interview with ITV following his readmission, O’Mara said he had made three attempts on his life during his suspension and had developed an anxiety disorder.[40][54][55] He restated his apology and asked for forgiveness from his constituents and the country. He refused to call a by-election and promised to make his maiden speech in July 2018.[40] He made his maiden speech on 24 July 2018,[56] the day before the start of the summer recess.[45] He was the 84th and final MP of the 2017 intake to make a maiden speech; the 83rd, David Duguid, spoke in November 2017.[57][58][59]

On 12 July 2018, O’Mara announced his resignation from the Labour Party.[60][61][62] He said that he had “not been listened to or given a fair investigation” following his suspension, and that the party “no longer shares [his] commitment to the true definition of equality and compassion.”[60][61] Offering to help constituents with casework, he suggested that he would not step down as an MP.[63] Despite his resignation, the Labour Party affirmed that it would continue to provide support for O’Mara; this was on the orders of Corbyn, who was concerned for O’Mara’s welfare.[64][65][49] In October 2018, O’Mara said the Labour Party had only made one adjustment for him, namely moving his office closer to the Commons chamber.[44]

On 24 April 2019, O’Mara suspended constituent casework for a month, pending the move to a new constituency office and recruitment of new staff to replace the loss of his original team.[51][66][67] In a July 2019 statement, O’Mara said he had never been reinstated to the party and Corbyn had made “false reports about me being a mental health danger around parliament” after O’Mara had complained about not being able to arrange a meeting with the former’s office.[15]

Sexual harassment allegation[edit]

On 27 July 2019, it was reported that O’Mara had sexually harassed a 20-year-old employee. O’Mara had sent WhatsApp messages to the employee, often late at night, in which he revealed his love for her, calling her “an angel”, “a delicate little flower” and “effortlessly pretty”.[68][69] In a separate message to his constituency staff, O’Mara accused the Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for his seat of believing in eugenics, and claimed that she had repressed sexual feelings for him.[70]

Allegations of corruption[edit]

On 23 July 2019, Gareth Arnold, a member of O’Mara’s communications team, took to the latter’s Twitter account to publicly resign and voice his concerns about the MP.[71][72] Arnold said that O’Mara was “the most disgustingly morally bankrupt person [he had] ever had the displeasure of working with” and had shown “inexcusable contempt” for his constituents. He told O’Mara to call a by-election.[73]

On 25 July 2019, O’Mara released a public statement, apologising “to everybody for everything”. He said that he had been “bullied and mistreated” and “wasn’t even meant to win the election”, having received no support from the national party for his campaign. He said that he would be “taking time out to…deal with my mental health and personal issues regarding self-medication”.[15]

An investigation by the BBC revealed that Arnold was still working for O’Mara two weeks following his resignation, having “extended his notice period”, and that staff hired in O’Mara’s office had not received the security clearance required by parliamentary authorities.[74]

Arnold allegedly referred O’Mara to the police in July 2019 over his expenses,[75] after which the police raided O’Mara’s office, seizing documents and computers.[76] In mid-August 2019, O’Mara and Arnold were arrested on suspicion of fraud but released a day later subject to further investigation.[77][75][76]

In October 2019, one of O’Mara’s constituents made a formal complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, alleging O’Mara had failed to act in the public interest and had used public money for his own benefit, and calling for a full investigation into his affairs.[78]

Standing down[edit]

In July 2019, O’Mara said he would stand for re-election at the next general election,[79] but later said he would stand down from the House of Commons after the 2019 parliamentary summer recess.[80][81] He voted for the “Letwin amendment” and against the government during the special sitting of Parliament on 19 October 2019.[82][83] Although postponing his resignation until after October 2019,[84] he stood down at the 2019 general election.[85] He was succeeded as MP for Sheffield Hallam by Olivia Blake.[86]

After leaving Parliament[edit]

Removal of Parliamentary pass[edit]

In April 2021, the Parliamentary Independent Expert Panel, which determines “appeals and sanctions in cases where complaints have been brought against MPs of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS)”[87] removed O’Mara’s right to hold a Parliamentary Pass, meaning that he lost access to the Palace of Westminster.[88]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ Tim Carr; Iain Dale; Robert Waller. The Politicos Guide to the New House of Commons 2017.
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External links[edit]


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