Rochdale Labour leader: ‘As the by-election circus leaves, hard work begins’

Neil Emmott
philip openshaw / Shutterstock

Three months ago, Rochdale was proud of its local Member of Parliament.

Sir Tony Lloyd had the respect of all who met him. A deeply caring man who represented his constituents with loyalty and tenacity. His decency shone through and everyone who knew him – constituents and party colleagues alike – will readily testify to that.

His untimely death and the subsequent by-election have been difficult for our town.

Unfortunately, the collapse of the Labour campaign, following remarks by our by-election candidate, Azhar Ali, resulted in the by-election turning into a circus, while the tension and sourness this campaign has brought to Rochdale will not be easily forgotten – or the terrible outcome.

The election of George Galloway is a disaster for Rochdale. A disaster because he is not committed to this place, having been elected in four different cities for three parties across his time in politics. Galloway simply saw a tactical opportunity to barge his way back into the political spotlight and took it.

Rochdale could well end up just another stopping off point for him. He came here to make a point. He’s now made it, so what next?

Terrible images from Gaza affect all of us

He based his campaign on the terrible situation in Gaza, but we will take no lessons from him about it.

The terrible images we see of the conflict affect all of us. This is why we all back a ceasefire, want to see urgent humanitarian aid get to the people in Gaza and a new political process put in place to finally build a two-state solution.

For the local party in Rochdale, our task is to regroup, select a new candidate for the general election and look to reclaim the seat at the forthcoming general election.

As we do so, we will take absolutely nothing for granted and show that, whoever we choose, is the right candidate to win back voters’ trust and follow in Tony’s footsteps.

Will Galloway even bother re-standing? An interim Member of Parliament would be a further blow for Rochdale when we need someone committed to fighting for it for the long term.

We have 8,000 families here trapped in fuel poverty. Galloway’s hot air isn’t going to heat their homes.

Like most large local authorities, we are dealing with the effects of 14 years of Tory austerity. Since 2010, Rochdale Council’s budget has been cut by 28% – more than £180 million.

Labour is delivering locally on helping the cost-of-living crisis

Yet even with this icy headwind, a lot is still going right here. This month sees the roll-out of  Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s ‘Bee Network.’ This will see cheap, frequent, reliable and better-quality bus services for the people of the borough.

Labour delivering on the basics – supporting people with practical policies to ease the cost-of-living crisis.

We are working to ensure every primary school has a breakfast club and every child is fed before school, while our food voucher scheme is supporting 13,000 families during school holidays.

We have kept all our libraries and Sure Start centres open – refusing to diminish what we believe is one of the stand-out successes from our last period in government.

Across Rochdale, we have opened 40 warm spaces hubs, helping the most vulnerable to keep warm all year round, while also preventing social isolation and signposting them to support services.

We run a tight ship – and have been able to give each Rochdale household a two percent discount on their council tax this year – thanks to our prudent financial management.

We’re proud of our town

As a key partner in the ‘Atom Valley,’ project – a cluster of world-class research, manufacturing and materials companies – Rochdale’s economy will eventually benefit from thousands of new high-skill, high-wage jobs and new homes that will be built at the site.

And last year Rochdale won a prestigious Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) award for ‘Best Small City.’ (This year we’re shortlisted as a Britain in Bloom Finalist).

We’re proud of our town and expect our Members of Parliament to help us to capitalise on our successes.

But having arrived in Rochdale this year and campaigned heavily on Gaza – show-ponying his way around the count in the early hours of this morning – does Galloway really have a clear plan for how he will make life better for people here?

Rochdale doesn’t need a novelty act; it needs a strong Labour MP working as part of a radical, transforming Labour government.

As the circus packs up and begins to leave Rochdale, the work begins to make sure that we get just that.



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