Labour heavyweight Andy Burnham has given his backing to former councillor Harpreet Uppal in the race to find the party’s candidate to replace Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman.
Mr Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, former health secretary and shadow home secretary, said Ms Uppal would make “a first-class MP” and “a brilliant representative” for the people of Huddersfield.
Ms Uppal, 39, who was the first female Sikh councillor in Kirklees when she was elected in 2018 to represent Huddersfield’s Ashbrow ward, worked as a campaigner for Oldham MP Debbie Abrahams and, later, for Mr Burnham on his 2015 leadership campaign and 2017 and 2019 mayoral campaigns.
In 2017, working on Mr Burnham’s mayoral campaign, she helped develop his manifesto and key policies such as ending rough sleeping and bringing buses under public control. She said: “Andy spoke to me because he spoke about the north.”
Now Mr Burnham is speaking again, this time with a ringing endorsement. He said: “Harpreet supported me on my leadership and mayoral campaigns, and I know she is a hard-working, diligent campaigner with real integrity.
“As a councillor she has put the needs of her constituents first and has been a great representative for her community. Harpreet will make a first-class MP and will be a brilliant representative for the people of Huddersfield. She has my full support.”
Interviewed by the Local Democracy Reporting Service in 2018, Ms Uppal was asked if her future ambitions lay in the direction of Westminster. She said: “It’s a big commitment – a 24/7 role, and a massive amount of work. It’s something that I would have to think about, and not something that I’m even thinking about now. I want to do what I’m doing now as well as I can. We’ll see what happens.”
During her four years on the council Ms Uppal chaired the Economy and Neighbourhood Scrutiny Panel and was a member of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee. When she stood down fulsome tributes to her were paid not just by Labour, but by opposition groups.
Ms Uppal is on a Labour long list of seven candidates. The others are:
- James Flinders – Huddersfield-born former York city councillor for Guildhall ward.
- Hugh Goulbourne – A commercial lawyer based in Huddersfield and chair of Huddersfield Cooperative Party who was on the short list to Labour’s candidate for West Yorkshire Mayor. Endorsed by USDAW, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers.
- Mus Khan – Kirklees councillor for Dalton ward and Cabinet member for Health and Social Care.
- Naheed Mather – Kirklees councillor for Dalton ward and Cabinet member for Environment. She was previously on the Labour Party short list for Blackburn and was a candidate for Leicester South.
- Mark Morris – Secretary of Kirklees Constituency Labour Party. Nominated by the Communication Workers Union (CWU), Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), and Unite.
- Shabir Pandor – Leader of Kirklees Council and ward councillor for Batley West. Endorsed by the GMB.
A meeting has taken place to agree a timetable for the process of drawing up a short list. Following a six-week process a candidate is set to be selected by the middle of July.
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman, 81, who was elected in 1979, announced last December that he would stand down at the next general election. He is not involved in the selection process and has said he is not championing any candidate as his successor. However he has said he wants to hand over to “someone that is energetic, who knows Huddersfield and is rooted in the area.”