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Harry Harpham's widow Gill Furniss chosen to fight by-election

Published 04/03/2016

The late Harry Harpham, whose widow Gill Furniss has been selected as Labour candidate for the by-election in Sheffield triggered by his death
The late Harry Harpham, whose widow Gill Furniss has been selected as Labour candidate for the by-election in Sheffield triggered by his death

The widow of former Labour MP Harry Harpham has been chosen to fight the Westminster by-election triggered by his death from cancer last month.

Gill Furniss was selected to contest the Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough seat by local party members at a meeting in the constituency on Thursday.

The long-serving city councillor told the Press Association her selection so soon after she lost her husband was "bitter-sweet" but said she was determined to carry on his work for jobs and investment in the South Yorkshire city.

Former miner Mr Harpham died just nine months after being elected in the 2015 general election to a seat formerly held by David Blunkett.

"Harry was only told he had terminal cancer last October and he was expected to live longer, so it was a shock that he only had four more months," said Ms Furniss. "Both being optimists, we never discussed what might happen to the seat after he was gone, and it never occurred to me that I might stand.

"But after he died, one or two people said to me `Why don't you try for it?' I mentioned it to my children almost as a joke and they all said 'That's exactly what we've been saying'. I gave it a lot of thought, and I felt it was the right thing to do.

"It's bitter-sweet because obviously I would rather that he was here carrying on his work, but I know that he would be absolutely thrilled. His time in Parliament was very brief but he really stood up for Sheffield and made a difference, and I am so proud of him.

"I am my own woman and I have a considerable amount of political experience, working as a trade union representative for Unison and being a city councillor for the last 16 years, but if I am elected I will certainly be carrying on his fight for jobs and investment in Sheffield."

The daughter of a steel-worker, Ms Furniss is Sheffield born and bred and is a former librarian and hospital worker.

No date has yet been set for the Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough by-election. Labour had a comfortable majority of 13,807 in the seat in the 2015 general election.

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