Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara dismisses allegations of misogyny as ‘smear attempt’

Labour’s candidate O’Mara is co-founder of West Street Live and a disability campaigner

Sheffield Hallam’s new Labour MP, Jared O’Mara, has rejected recent accusations of misogyny, and believes he is victim of a “smear attempt”.

There was controversy over a song O’Mara wrote and recorded a decade ago that it was alleged advocates violence against women. Allegations have also been made about an argument he had with a woman in April at West Street Live, the club he co-founded.

Speaking for the first time about claims on Westminster blog Guido Fawkes, O’Mara told South Yorkshire Briefing: “I didn’t even dignify these with a response. Anyone who listens to that song, will know it’s a song about not being violent towards women.”

He argued the song was written based on a conversation overheard in the Benjamin Huntsman Wetherspoons in Sheffield: “This guy was talking about his missus, and he was saying ‘oh, she winds me up but I’d never lay a finger on her.’ I thought that sentiment or that idea might make a song.

“It’s there for anyone to listen to. It’s a song that means the exact opposite, that was cynically taken out of context and I will not rise to that kind of behaviour from right-wing people that are trying to smear me.”

He also denied calling a woman an “ugly bitch” inside West Street Live earlier this year.

“I did not say those things. Her friends attacked me. I didn’t know they were her friends at the time and then she was screaming at our staff, screaming at one of my friends and brought him close to tears. She was deadly serious when she said I’d only had her mate thrown out because she wouldn’t sleep with me.”

He previously spoke to the woman through a dating app, where they then met in person. They went their separate ways after just twenty minutes.

More ‘normal people’ are needed in politics

O’Mara said he believes if more “normal” people, such as those who work in nightclubs, are involved in politics it is inevitable that they will come with more baggage, including arguments with customers.

He told this publication that he strongly advocates gender equality, not just in Parliament but also in all walks of life. Pointing towards Sheffield having a gender balanced group of MPs, O’Mara believes that is should be like this across the country.

He said: “I’m not a slick operator or career politician and I’d like to see more diversity in Westminster and in council chambers across the country.

“Maybe people will see me being disabled, a little bit eccentric, very much northern and working class, and think well if he can do maybe I can do it.”

Speaking from his modest kitchen in his two-bed Kelham Island flat, O’Mara appears to be relaxing into his new role as MP, admitting that it took time to settle in after he first arrived to Westminster two weeks ago.

He said that the first week had been somewhat of a whirlwind for him and for someone whose condition, Cerebral Palsy, causes fatigue he says the life of a parliamentarian is going to take a bit of adjusting to.

O’Mara spent eleven years in the music industry, promoting bands in Sheffield. Still in the process of taking on staff, it was clear that the victory came as a shock even to him.

“I’m not going to lie, as a young man and as someone who has come from West Street Live to Westminster I did have a little bit of imposter syndrome on my first day down there but then as I got into the swing of things. I started to believe I belonged there and I could make a difference for my city and disabled people,” he said.

“I’m just Joe Bloggs…”

Downplaying his role in ousting former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the new Labour MP said: “I’m just Joe Bloggs who managed to climb to the top of the fish tank and got dropped in from a great height.

“I’ll paraphrase the Momentum catchphrase ‘it’s not a man, it’s a movement,’ and say it’s not about me it’s about a manifesto. People voted for that rather than me.”

Momentum, the Corbyn-supporting campaign network of over 20,000 members are happy to admit they played a big part in the success of O’Mara, and in the constituency they had a heavy ground presence.

The member of the campaign group dismissed suggestions that he may have ruffled some feathers amongst the Momentum ranks with his recent comments in the Guardian, where he suggested he might want to distance himself from some members of the group and rejected the idea that his victory was a ‘Momentum victory.’

He was also angered by a petition he believes was started by Momentum saying that Labour had discriminated against him because of his disability.

“I was furious about the petition. I won’t have my disability used as a political football.”

“All shades of the party came together for my victory. It was a group effort. Let’s concentrate on the fact that we were successful and we won. Whatever happened it was the right decision and we got Angela [Smith] back in. She’s Progress and I’m Momentum, we need to put our differences aside. We need all the Labour MPs we can get.”

In a large, demographically diverse constituency such as Sheffield Hallam, O’Mara will have to balance demands from both Crookes’ students, and Dore and Totley’s middle-class residents.

“It starts with listening … we have got to find how to lives better and find a mutually beneficial way forward,” he said.

The city has been split in recent months because of the continued felling of allegedly healthy street trees. Many feel the council have handled this issue badly and O’Mara remains cagey on the subject.

“It’s a lot more complicated than is out there in the public domain. I have great sympathy for the tree campaigners, and also for the Labour council who have their hands tied behind their back by huge Tory cuts.”

Despite this, he says that he is not a advocate of PFI contracts, such as Sheffield City Council’s deal with Amey for the controversial ‘Streets Ahead’ project.

Few MPs will have as turbulent a first week as O’Mara, but to many he’ll always be known as the Sheffield-lad who turned the outdoor city red.