Ed Balls rules out political comeback for Labour in Wakefield byelection

Ed Balls has ruled out a return to politics as a Labour candidate in the upcoming Wakefield byelection.

The former shadow chancellor, who lost his Morley and Outwood seat at the 2015 general election, wrote on Twitter that he had “no intention of putting myself forward” for the contest.

The West Yorkshire constituency is due to elect a new MP after the incumbent Imran Ahmad Khan was convicted last week of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

Khan, who was thrown out of the Conservative party after the verdict at Southwark crown court last week, announced he would be standing down to contest the jury’s decision.

There had been reports that Balls would contest the seat but the former education secretary, who is married to the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, tweeted: “Back from New York to find Wakefield speculation still running.

“I appreciate all the messages but, for removal of any doubt, no one’s spoken to me about it and I’ve no intention of putting myself forward when the current MP finally resigns!”

A date for the byelection has yet to be set.

Balls has embarked on a career outside politics since losing his seat, including a stint as Norwich City FC chairman and appearing on cookery and travel television programmes.

He also appeared on the BBC programme Strictly Come Dancing programme in 2016 and has established himself as a political and social commentator in the media.

During his decade in the Commons, Balls served under former prime minister Tony Blair as a Treasury minister and was later promoted to the cabinet as education secretary by Gordon Brown, with whom he was closely allied.

He finished third in the 2010 Labour leadership election, which was won by Ed Miliband, following Brown’s resignation from No 10, and held shadow cabinet positions until his election defeat five years later.

Wakefield turned blue during Boris Johnson’s landslide election victory in 2019 as he took swathes of “red wall” seats in Labour’s traditional heartlands in the north of England, Midlands and north Wales.

Labour had held the seat since the 1930s until Khan’s victory. Keir Starmer will have his sights set on recapturing it from a Conservative party besieged by allegations of rule-breaking in recent months and after Johnson and Rishi Sunak were fined by police for breaching coronavirus rules during lockdown.

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