The last week or so has not been brilliant for politicians named Imran Khan. Whilst the former Pakistan Prime Minister, masterful all-rounder, and husband of Jemima Goldsmith has been pushed out of power in Islamabad, Imran Ahmad Khan has triggered a by-election in Wakefield. This follows his conviction for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy and his expulsion from the Conservative Party.
Whilst this should rightly be the end of Khan’s political career, it is also an opportunity. Specifically, an opportunity for a keen Conservative willing to defend Wakefield at the upcoming by-election. Accordingly, it has come to ConservativeHome’s attention that the Party has now written (well, e-mailed) to invite applications for candidature.
The specifics are obvious. CCHQ wants applicants who can display strong links to the constituency or neighbouring areas. The vacancy is intended for those with a Comprehensive or Key Seat Pass, and the Seat CV attached with the e-mail is required to be returned by interested candidates by Monday 18th April at 4pm.
The fight for Wakefield will be a fascinating content for those of us with an eye on the next general election. This is a prime ‘Red Wall’ seat. Before Khan won it in 2019, it had not had a Conservative MP since 1932. It voted to Leave by 62 percent in 2016. Average incomes and the number of degree-holders are below the English average.
Since Labour need a swing of 3.75 percent to re-take Wakefield, it is exactly the sort of seat Sir Keir Starmer must win to reach Downing Street. A Labour victory here, a year on from the remarkable Tory victory in Hartlepool, would cause many to suggest that the Johnson, Brexit, and vaccine factors are losing their hold over the ‘Red Wall’ – and that the opinion polls are bang on target.
The New Statesman team have crunched the numbers and expect a Labour win by 7 points or so. Which is what one might expect, in a marginal with a current majority of 3,358, two and a half years into a Parliament, and with the country hurtling towards a cost-of-living crisis. As such, whilst it will be fun to turn this contest into a barometer for 2024, a Conservative lost here would not be a surprise.