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Labor retook Wakefield from the Tories in a by-election called after a Tory MP was jailed for sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy.

The new Labor MP, Simon Lightwood, is an NHS communications officer who worked for the former Labor MP. Lightwood won with 13,166 votes, a majority of 4,921 votes. Nadeem Ahmed of the Conservatives came second with 8,241 votes.

He spent the short campaign repeatedly telling voters that this was their chance to ‘kick Boris out of Downing Street’ – despite his win only chipping away at the 75-seat majority Boris Johnson enjoyed before polls closed on Thursday.

But his victory has major symbolic value for Labor leader Keir Starmer to show that the party is making progress in the “red wall” seats won by the Conservatives in 2019.

Aware that if Labor did not win the seat a challenge to the leadership would ensue, Starmer ordered the party to throw everything at Wakefield. He visited three times and ordered his shadow cabinet to do the same.

Activists flooded the headquarters across the UK, amid reports the party was running out of local canvassers after some members of the Wakefield constituency party executive quit in protest after a councilor popular local failed to make it onto the shortlist of candidates. Although Lightwood made a big deal of going to Wakefield University and buying his first house there, he lives with his husband in Calderdale.

David Pickersgill, a Labor councilor in Wakefield, insisted local members had rallied around Lightwood. “Those who resigned from office (not from the Party) still asked people to vote Labour. About 10 people in this group did not campaign. Fifty or 60 other members (including a number of this executive) campaigned and worked hard for a @UKLabour deputy and future government”, he tweeted Thursday night after the polls close.

In interviews during the campaign, Lightwood has spoken of growing up in poverty. “I know what people are going through in this cost of living crisis. After we took over our childhood home, I shared a room with my grandmother, aunt and sister,” he tweeted.

Local Councilor Nadeem Ahmed, the Tory candidate, received slightly less support from Conservative Party HQ, which was preoccupied with trying to defend its majority of 24,000 in the same day by-election in Tiverton and Honiton in the Devon.

An amiable former teacher who claimed to read the Guardian, Ahmed was a Wakefield Tory group leader until last year when he was ousted in a vote of no confidence.

He got confused during the campaign trying to explain to a reporter why he shouldn’t be punished for the sins of former MP Imran Ahmad Khan. He said voters should still vote Conservative in Wakefield because ‘we still trust the GPs’ after Harold Shipman killed 250 people.

Although often described as a typical “red wall” seat, Wakefield was marginal for 20 years. Mary Creagh, elected Labor in 2005 with a majority of just over 5,000 votes, managed to hold out until 2019 when she was ousted by Khan, who won by 3,358 votes. A passionate European who once said she would stay “until I die,” Creagh found herself out of step with many voters in a seat that voted 66.4% to leave the EU.

theguardian Gt

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