Sion Simon: MPs Who Want To Challenge Me Should Pay For By-Elections

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SION SIMON
PA

Labour MPs who want to quit parliament in order to stand for election to be city mayors should pay for the cost of a by-election, one contender to be mayor of Birmingham has said.

Sion Simon, the former Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, stood down from the Commons at the 2010 general election, with a view to standing to be the city's first directly elected mayor.

Writing in the Birmingham Post, Simon said sitting Labour MPs should be allowed to challenge him for the post - at a cost.

"By-elections can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and are a huge diversion of party activist and staff time and energy," he said.

"They should sign undertakings to abide by the result and not to run as independents if they lose, and perhaps also to repay to the Labour party and the Exchequer the cost of their by-elections if they win," he said.

He added: "But they should be allowed to stand. Bring it on."

Simon's articles comes amid reports that Labour high command is considering barring sitting MPs from standing to be mayors if they quit parliament, in order to avoid costly by-elections across the country that the party can ill-afford.

The former education minister is set to face fierce competition from sitting MPs Gisela Stuart and Liam Byrne for the Labour nomination if the city votes in favour of having a directly-elected mayor model in a referendum on 3 May.

And in a jab at his potential challengers from Westminster he said: "I stood down from parliament because I didn’t want to cause the party the expense and uncertainty of a by-election, and because I would not break the bond of trust with people who elected me to serve a full term."

Fingers have been pointed at Harriet Harman, whose husband Jack Dromy replaced Simon as the Birmingham Erdington MP in 2010, and Tom Watson, the deputy chair of the party, as the key figures involved in moves to avoid by-elections.

Stuart, the MP for Birmingham Edgebaston, told The Times yesterday that moves to block her from standing were a sign Labour was in danger of becoming an "old fashioned backward looking party".

"The party machine has to show some faith in in the good judgement of voters and you cannot do that by drawing up rules which narrow down the contest," she said.

Byrne, the MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill and a former chief secretary to the Treasury, infamously left a note for the incoming coalition government that the UK had "no money left". Ironically the Labour is suffering from a similar cash shortage could end up scuppering his chances of taking charge of England's second city.

Several other Labour MPs are believed to be considering quitting Westminster in order to take over responsibility for running cities across England including former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth in Coventry and Tony Lloyd in Manchester.