An MP embroiled in controversy over historic sexist and homophobic comments has pointed to the forgiveness shown by Jesus as he made his much-delayed maiden speech to Parliament.
Jared O’Mara was elected as Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam in June last year but has since left the party after being suspended over his online remarks. He is now an Independent.
Despite being reinstated by Labour, he quit the party after being made to “feel like a criminal”, and condemned it for no longer sharing “my commitment to the true definition of equality and compassion”.
In his speech to MPs on Tuesday, O’Mara spoke of what can be learned from the teachings of Jesus, although he said he considers himself “a man of science” and “more aligned with atheism and humanism”.
O’Mara said: “He was a man who forgave those who truly repented and he shares my belief that our utmost human priority should be helping those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable amongst us.”
The MP asked his constituents, all political parties and everyone in the country to join him in “prioritising these principles”.
He added: “I promise that I will do my utmost to help all those in need of help within my constituency and to champion the cause of equality.
“When I return to Parliament in September I shall do so with renewed vigour and an unwavering commitment to social justice and look forward to being the best MP that I can possibly be.”
In posts he made on online forums more than a decade ago, the MP made rape jokes, asked Girls Aloud for an orgy and branded British women “fatties”.
Subsequent reports revealed he also referred to gay people as “fudge packers” and made derogatory comments about Spanish and Danish people.
O’Mara said he was Parliament’s “very first autistic MP, as well as having cerebral palsy and other disabilities”.
He added: “This is something which fills me with immense pride and it is an honour for me to have this chance to represent our country’s disabled people in addition to serving my constituents.”
He praised his Liberal Democrat predecessor Sir Nick Clegg for his “admirable and steadfast belief in the value of our membership in the European Union” and commitment to multiculturalism, noting he shared both of these.
The MP also praised the sports stars which have emerged from his constituency, including “the best right-back in football” Kyle Walker.
He offered the warm tribute to the England star “even though I am an Owl and he is a Blade” – in recognition of his support for Sheffield Wednesday and Walker’s for Sheffield United.
O’Mara told the Commons he was “very proud” to call Sheffield home, describing the city as the “epitome of multiculturalism”.