Ed Balls rules himself out of battling Wakefield by-election for Labour

Ed Balls has ruled himself out of standing for Labour in the Wakefield by-election Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Former shadow chancellor Ed Balls has ruled himself out of running as the Labour candidate in the Wakefield by-election.

The Strictly Come Dancing star denied he was considering a political comeback by tweeting that he had “no intention of putting himself forward” for the contest.

The West Yorkshire constituency is due to elect a new MP after incumbent Imran Ahmad Khan was convicted 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.

A date for the by-election has yet to be set.

Former education secretary Mr Balls had been heavily tipped to be the Labour contender for the seat but he told social media followers he would not be putting himself forward for consideration.

Mr Balls, who is married to 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!”

Recent Westminster talk had been that the 55-year-old was eyeing a return to the political front line.

The prominent New Labour figure lost his Morley and Outwood seat at the 2015 general election and has since embarked on a career outside of politics, including a stint as Norwich City FC chairman and appearing on cookery and travel television programmes.

During his decade in the Commons, Mr 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.

The Wakefield by-election could be challenging for Boris Johnson and will be likely read in Conservative circles as a test of his standing with the electorate following his fine for breaching coronavirus rules during the pandemic.

The Prime Minister was last week issued with a fixed-penalty notice by the Metropolitan Police for attending his own June 2020 birthday bash in Downing Street during the first lockdown in England, and is facing calls from his own backbenches to resign.

Former Conservative Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan was convicted of molesting a teenage boy Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Wakefield turned blue during Mr Johnson’s landslide election victory in 2019 as he took swathes of so-called 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 and party leader Sir Keir Starmer will have his sights set on recapturing it from a Tory outfit hit by allegations of sleaze and rule-breaking in recent months.