UKIP accuses Labour of 'shoddy politics' over Heywood & Middleton by-election date

Labour MP, Jim Dobbin Credit: PA

UKIP has accused Labour of 'shoddy politics' after announcing the Heywood and Middleton by-election could take place on the same day as another high-profile vote.

Labour today moved a writ in the House of Commons to set the date of the contest for October 9th, the same day voters go to the polls for a by-election Clacton in Essex following Douglas Carswell's defection to UKIP from the Conservatives.

The by election in Heywood and Middleton was triggered after the death of Labour MP Jim Dobbin, who died on Saturday, aged 73.

Ukip MEPs in the North West have also criticised the timing of the announcement.

“I find it extremely distasteful that they have put party politics above respect of Jim Dobbin,” said Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall.

“He was a hard working MP who only died at the weekend and the normal protocol is not to call a by-election to until the funeral.

“The last time a by-election was called before the funeral it was the Tories that did it, and ironically Labour led the complaints about it being disrespectful.

"They are quite right to be fearful of us for we are making huge inroads into their traditional Northern heartland and more and more disillusioned Labour voters are joining us.

“This truly is shoddy politics from Labour.”

Steven Woolfe, UKIP MEP for the North West, told Granada Reports Labour had shown "a cynical and disrespectful attitude to decency by calling an election on the 9th October."

"They are more concerned in holding a quick election, no doubt to prevent a full campaign by UKIP who are breathing down their necks and allow the constituents an opportunity to fully test the principles and values of any candidate," said Mr Woolfe.

"It's a sad day for politics in Greater Manchester and the North West where the Labour Party are acting like it is their private fiefdom. I for one will be campaigning for change and an end to this miserable style of politics."

In response, the Labour party said it had consulted with Jim Dobbin’s family about the date and announced it would begin its campaign with a tribute to the former MP.

“With the agreement of Jim’s family, we have moved the writ today as it is vital that the people of Heywood & Middleton constituency are not left without representation for an extended period”, said Toby Perkins MP.

“The Labour Party, through the hard work of Jim Dobbin and other colleagues across the constituency, have built a strong relationship with voters that has lasted for over 20 years and more.

“It is telling that UKIP feel under pressure from the timetable. If UKIP had an interest in Heywood and Middleton that lasted for longer than the 4 weeks of this by election, maybe they wouldn’t the timetable such an impediment. We will be beginning our campaign with a tribute to Jim, delivered by those who worked and campaigned with him for many years.”