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Illsley finally goes and Labour calls a high speed by-election in Barnsley Central

Len Tingle | 20:35 UK time, Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Eric Illsley

Disgraced former Labour MP Eric Illsley left his house at Pogmoor near Barnsley this afternoon without a word to my BBC team who had been waiting outside all day.
It may be some time before he returns.

He was setting out to London for tomorrow's sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court where there is a strong chance he will be jailed.

He has remained silent throughout the month that has passed since he admitted fiddling his expenses to the tune of £14,000. He has made no attempt to explain why he ignored all calls for him to resign.

He finally quit late on Tuesday night with just one full day remaining before his return to court on Thursday.

What has angered local people is that while he has been on bail he has been on full pay and is thought to have earned £5,000 since his conviction.

It has also blocked the process of electing his successor as a by-election could not be called until the seat became vacant.

As the incumbent party Labour can choose the timing of the poll. So within hours of the news that he has finally gone Rosie Winterton, the Doncaster MP, who is the shadow leader of the house moved the writ in the House of Commons.

Polling day will be Thursday 3 March.

Labour's anxiety to get things moving to retain a seat it has held since 1938 is show by the three week timetable it has set.

It is just about the briefest time that the law allows with a week for nominations to be made then a further fortnight of campaigning before the polling stations open.

The party is defending a majority of just over 11,000 and has already chosen its new candidate.

So far only the UK Independence Party and the far right BNP have announced who will stand for them. Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are expected to make a decision over the weekend.

There is one silver lining for Labour at the embarrassment of its former veteran back- bencher staying put and collecting his pay cheque.

As one Labour insider told me, if Eric Illsley had resigned as soon as he admitted his crimes than it is possible that a three week by-election would have had the shadow of his potential jail sentence hanging over it.

Not only that, polling day could well have taken place on Thursday 10 February - the same day he is likely to be jailed by the court.

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