Keir Starmer orders Labour frontbenchers to campaign 'at least three times each' in Wakefield

Keir Starmer has ordered shadow cabinet members to campaign at least three times each in Wakefield ahead of next month’s by-election.

Sir Keir told the LabourList website that winning the seat back from the Conservatives is a key priority for his party - but denied recent reports claiming he had told his frontbenchers not to campaign in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election as part of an informal pact with the Liberal Democrats.

Both by-elections are likely to take place on June 23.

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Sir Keir said he has “required every member of the shadow cabinet to come at least three times” over the course of the campaign in Wakefield. The by-election has been triggered by the resignation of Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan following his conviction for sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

Keir Starmer speaking to pensioners in Wakefield earlier this month

He added: “I’m not saying to people don’t go to other places, Tiverton etc… But, obviously, Wakefield is a very, very important seat for us. It’s one of those seats that we have to show that we are winning in and I don’t shy away from that, and therefore obviously I want a very, very strong campaign here.”

It comes after Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle intervened in Parliament over questions on what the Conservative party knew about allegations involving Khan prior to him becoming an MP.

Speaking during a session of questions to the leader of the Commons, Labour shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire said: “During the trial of the former MP for Wakefield, the survivor of this abuse said he had contacted Tory HQ during the 2019 general election to tell them about it.

“Now I commend his bravery.

“(Labour frontbencher Louise Haigh) has written to the co-chairman of the Conservative Party on April 24 asking why there had been no action at that time. She has had no reply.”

Ms Debbonaire asked: “Why these allegations were not acted on in the first place. And has the Government contacted child sexual abuse survivor Sammy Woodhouse to apologise to her for putting her on a panel with the former member for Wakefield?”

She added: “Does the Leader of the House understand why survivors of sexual abuse might conclude that this could have been a cover up?”

Sir Lindsay told Commons Leader Mark Spencer he did not want him to go into the details relating to Khan as his sentencing has not yet taken place. Khan is due to be sentenced on Monday, May 23.

Mr Spencer said: “Across this House we do need to work together to make sure those people who are victims of abuse in any way shape or form have the confidence to come forward, that their allegations are taken seriously, that they are fully investigated.

“And I think we have made huge strides in that direction with cross-party support, and my door is always open to anyone who has suggestions as to how we could move forward.”

He added: “I think together we can, cross-party, address some of these challenges.

“We do take those challenges very seriously and I think we’re moving in the right direction, but there is more to do.”

Later in the session, Labour MP Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) said: “Can we have a Government statement on what checks were made into individuals’ backgrounds, including allegations made against them, before they were put onto the Home Office panel to advise the Home Secretary on how to deal with grooming gangs and child exploitation?”

Mr Spencer said he would avoid naming any individual, referencing Sir Lindsay’s advice.

The Commons leader added: “But I think, you know clearly we have a responsibility in this House to make sure that we address the challenges that we face, that those individuals who do act inappropriately are weeded out and are held to account.

“And my commitment to the chamber and to this House is to continue to do that, to continue to weed out those who act inappropriately and I look forward with her to achieve that.”

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