Harpreet Uppal could become Huddersfield’s first ever female MP after winning a four-way selection battle to replace Barry Sheerman.

Mr Sheerman will continue as Huddersfield MP until the next General Election is called and will be replaced by former Kirklees councillor Ms Uppal as the Labour candidate.

Ms Uppal, proud to become the first female Sikh councillor when she was elected for the Ashbrow ward in 2018, beat a challenge from commercial lawyer and campaigner Hugh Goulbourne, council Cabinet member Mus Khan and party activist Mark Morris.

The vote by Labour party members took place on Saturday at the Sikh Leisure Centre in Prospect Street, Huddersfield.

After the vote Ms Uppal, 39, said: “I am so proud and humble to have been selected. I will always put the residents of Huddersfield first.”

Known to everyone as ‘Harpreet’, Ms Uppal, who was born and bred in Fartown, was hailed as a “genuine pioneer” when she was first elected to the ward where she lived in 2018.

She was seen as a rising star chairing the Economy and Neighbourhood Scrutiny Panel. When she stepped down from the council at the elections in May there was genuine disappointment at her loss to the council chamber.

Ms Uppal on the campaign trail with Clr Tyler Hawkins

Ms Uppal grew up in Fartown as the daughter of textile worker Lamber Singh Uppal and his wife Satvinder. Mr Uppal came to the UK from India in 1962 where he raised a family.

Ms Uppal’s mother and grandfather, who she never met, had been active in politics in India and at Fartown High School Ms Uppal was encouraged to become politically active by her teacher, Mrs Perry. She was elected to the school council and went on to take politics at A-level.

After that she studied politics at Nottingham Trent University and completed a masters degree in international politics at Bradford.

She worked for the Audit Commission and the NHS and is currently deputy chief of staff for Debbie Abrahams, the Oldham East and Saddleworth MP.

On that role Ms Uppal said: “Through my work with Debbie Abrahams MP, I have seen the difference an MP can make on individual cases and the power they have to bring people and organisations together to build great things in the community.”

Ms Uppal also worked on Andy Burnham’s campaign to become Mayor of Greater Manchester in 2017. Mr Burnham backed her campaign to be selected in Huddersfield telling her: “You’re a real fighter, a real campaigner and I think you’ll make a great MP.”

What has shaped Ms Uppal’s beliefs?

The Care System

Ms Uppal’s late mother Satvinder was a care worker for Kirklees Council for 18 years. When Satvinder developed a brain tumour her family, with support from her former colleagues, cared for her.

Ms Uppal said: “We saw the kindness these women brought not only to our mum but to our whole family. But we also saw a system that needed fixing. I was so proud of the work my mum did and the difference she made.

“This fight is personal and I can promise you that I will always strive for a system that works for all of us.”

The shock election of a BNP councillor in Kirklees

The year 2003 was probably when Ms Uppal decided she needed to go into local politics. She helped a Labour campaign in Heckmondwike where a British National Party candidate won the seat, pushing Labour into fourth.

It was at that moment Ms Uppal decided to join the Labour Party and her journey began.

Public transport

Ms Uppal said: “When I worked on Andy Burnham’s mayoral campaign in 2017, I helped write his manifesto and developed key policies such as bringing buses under public control – policies that are now being implemented.

“Here in West Yorkshire, (mayor) Tracy Brabin also has a strong focus on improving bus services and is already making progress. As a councillor and member of the West Yorkshire Economy Scrutiny Panel I advocated for publicly owned bus and rail services.”

What do Ms Uppal’s former colleagues say about her?

Councillors were fulsome – and genuine – in their praise at a full council meeting in March when it was announced she was stepping down.

Clr Habiban Zaman (Lab, Batley West) described Ms Uppal as a “brilliant representative and role model for the minority community.”

She added: “Her passion, knowledge and hard work has been delivered with distinction. Harpreet has been a voice for the voiceless, a voice for the vulnerable.”

Cabinet member for culture and greener Kirklees, Will Simpson (Lab, Denby Dale), said of Ms Uppal: “She is such a warm, nice, generous, fundamentally good person.

“When I joined the council I immediately knew she was someone you would love to be around. If you walked into a council meeting you knew you had a friend in that room. She has made an immense contribution. Thanks for being kind, an incredible councillor and being a good friend.”

Cabinet member for corporate, Clr Paul Davies (Lab, Holme Valley South), said of Ms Uppal: “She was always looking to make a positive difference.

“She was focused on helping people and absolutely never thought about her own political gain. It never even crossed her mind. That has to be admired and residents appreciate that.

“She is very bright, people always say that. That makes really good skills as a chair and she works across parties and makes everybody in those meetings feel they have had the ability to contribute and be heard.”