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Rochdale by election

Which Rochdale by-election candidates are open and transparent on key foreign policy issues? A questionnaire to candidates reveal some have ducked the question, not the attitude which is needed from prospective MP’s.


Rochdale. Town Hall. Photo by Julia / Fickr.  Creative Commons License.

Anthony Webber / Unity News*


The candidates were sent out the same brief questions and were treated fairly and equally. They were given plenty of opportunity to respond. The public can make their own judgement on the responses.

It is to be hoped that the media will do their job, and query why they evaded these issues, and let the public know what their views were.

Will the Tucker Carlson interview of Russian President Putin motivate the candidates to have the courage to challenge the government’s foreign policies? Or will the witch hunt against those who challenge the government and opposition pro-Israel stance make them fearful?.

A by-election took place on 29 February 2024 in the UK Parliament constituency of Rochdale following the death of Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd. Rochdale is a constituency in the North West region of England, located in the east of Greater Manchester. The constituency is based on the town of the same name.

After the1997 general election, Rochdale was considered a Labour–Liberal Democrat marginal. This changed when the UK Independence Party finished second in the 2015 general election. In the 2016 European Union membership referendum, Rochdale voted 60:40 in favour of Brexit.

There are 11 candidates standing: Two are representing the Conservative and Liberal Democrats. One was officially representing the Labour party, and will be on the ballot paper but has lost the backing of the Labour party, so is de facto an Independent candidate.

Night time. Photo by Alex France / Fickr. Creative Commons License.

One will be standing for the Workers party of Great Britain. One for the Reform UK party. One with Green party on the nomination form but who will no longer be an official Green party candidate. One representing the Official Monster Raving Loony party. Finally, four Independents. One of which is standing on behalf of Just Stop Oil. Another formed a group called parents against grooming. The other two have general concerns about improving the state of Rochdale.

The candidates were sent a questionnaire on their views regarding the government’s policies on the Israel/Palestine and Ukraine/Russia conflicts.

These are key issues, yet some of the political parties want to avoid debate on them and are being helped on this by national and local media.

This was highlighted by the Kingswood

by-election, where it turned out that the winning Labour candidate had a partner who had served several years in the Israeli Defence Force.

(NB. The questions sent to the candidates are mentioned further below, in the George Galloway response, as there is no need to have eleven repeats of the same questions). The candidates responded as follows:

Azhar Ali-Independent( Labour formerly) No Response.

Different comments have been made by him on the Israel/Palestine situation, but the Labour party has been broadly supportive of government policy, even though the party no longer supports him in this by-election.

  The Labour party has been broadly supportive of the government policy on Ukraine/Russia, and he has gone along with that.

(Rev) Mark Coleman, Independent (and Just Stop Oil). Responded.

First – I am not in favour of referendum, we witnessed over the Brexit referendum a polarisation and a complex foreign policy question, when what was needed was delibration and real debate and understanding. Delibrative democracy via Citizen’s Assemblies can provide policy and solutions to ‘political hot-potatoes’ bringing people together rather than sending them into different camps. Regarding your specific questions on the Ukraine and Gaza – we need a ceasefire now, in both conflicts. We need to use the diplomatic and economic levers we have to force the fighting to stop.  We face the potential for more and more conflict in coming years, as countries scramble for diminishing natural resources. We face war over diminishing natural resources, Gaza and the Ukraine could be a fore taste of what is to come. Millions being killed while nations and elites standby and watch.

Simon Danczuk, ReformUK. No response

However, it is known that their policy on Ukraine and Russia is broadly to support the government position. Policy on Israel/Palestine, the same. Clearly not wanting to debate these issues.

Iain Donaldson ,Liberal Democrats. No response

However Libdem policy fully supports sending arms to Ukraine.

The policy on Israel/Palestine is as follows: (click here)

Perhaps not surprising they do not want to have their policies debated and scrutinised.

Paul Ellison, Conservative and Unionist No response.

The government policies on Ukraine/Russia and Israel/Palestine are those currently in place. In the absence of hearing from the candidate, it is assumed he supports such policies. Clearly not prepared to debate these issues.

George Galloway, Workers Party of Great Britain, responded, (response in italic letters).

1 ) The Foreign Polices of the UK government have caused major rises in the costs of living and energy, as well as other economic consequences. They have resulted in Russia becoming closer to Communist China, North Korea and other countries, instead of Western countries such as the UK. The unsuccessful efforts by the UK government on other countries to support sanctions against Russia and to supply arms to Ukraine, have been seen as coercive and bullying, and have caused reputational damage to the UK. It seems that this Foreign policy has been one of the biggest blunders in our history. Do you believe the UK government (and Opposition) need to urgently review UK Foreign policy in respect of Ukraine and Russia?

Yes, absolutely. Not just review but put into reverse the reckless warmongering course we are on. The best way to keep Britain safe is for us to look after our own interests and not go interfering in far off lands and making unnecessary enemies. 

2) The UK government, without any mandate, has been spending billions of taxpayers’ money on weaponry for Ukraine, money which is desperately needed in the UK. There is now no democracy in Ukraine, opposition parties have been shut down, as have opposition media, as have a major orthodox Church. Those who want peace are not allowed a voice. There was due to be a peace agreement signed between Ukraine and Russia back in April 2022, but this was scuppered by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who offered weaponry and aid for them to continue fighting. The UK has trained thousands of Ukrainians, many of whom have been killed or wounded on the meat grinder front. The UK government has the blood of thousands on its hands for perpetuating this conflict which Ukraine has never had any chance of winning. So far, intelligence sources estimate that 1.3 million Ukrainian military have been killed, wounded, or are missing, as opposed to 79,800 Russians. These casualties are obscene. Do you believe that the UK government should end military support to Ukraine now and change to becoming a peace- making country?

Yes. This would be a sensible first step towards peace. 

3) Since the start of this conflict, the UK government has used many of the media powers they had during covid to bring about a one -sided presentation of what is going on. The public have been denied the truth because anything contrary to the UK government’s policies on Ukraine and Russia, have been no platformed. Do you believe that there should be free and open debate on all aspects of the UK government’s ( and Opposition’s) Ukraine and Russia policies?

Rohdale. Photo by BlackDaffodil / Fickr. Creative Commons License.

Of course. The absence of questioning in the mainstream media has been scandalous. 

4) The UK government has not been insistent on a ceasefire in Gaza and by its actions has been seen as taking sides in the Israel/Palestine conflict. This has extended to having been involved in bombing/strikes or supporting such in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. It is known that the number of dead Palestinians in Gaza is in excess of 25,000 and the ICJ has made a judgement against Israel’s actions. With reference to the conflict regarding Israel which started with Hamas in Gaza, and which is worsening, do you believe that the UK government should be neutral and focus on being a peace-maker in the Middle East?

No. Being neutral is not enough. We should be supportive of the Palestinians and putting firm pressure on Israel.

5) A Parliamentary Petition has been launched to ask for a referendum on both these issues, as both have no mandate from the British public. Do you support this petition: Petition: Referendum for UK to be neutral on Israel/Palestine and Ukraine/Russia conflicts.

Commend the sentiments behind the petition but calling for Britain to be neutral between Israel and Palestine does not go far enough. In the struggle between oppressor and oppressed I will always be on the side of the oppressed. (Could support the idea of a referendum on British support for Israel, has it gone too far? Or should Britain continue to supply arms to Israel?)

On his website he says: “Palestine-Establishment of its own land and identity, with the aim of promoting peace. Gaza- Immediate ceasefire and immediate release of hostages on both sides.”

William Howarth, Independent. Responded.

“Do you believe the UK government ( and Opposition) need to urgently review UK Foreign policy in respect of Ukraine and Russia?“ I believe so Yes . We need to focus on brokering peace not funding weaponry that will take lives.

“Do you believe that the UK government should end military support to Ukraine now and change to becoming a peace- making country?“ It has to, we spend billions of pounds that is much needed in the UK . we must pursue peace. “Do you believe that there should be free and open debate on all aspects of the UK government’s ( and Opposition’s) Ukraine and Russia policies?“ It is very hard to do so in today’s world, debate has almost gone, if you support russia you’re branded if you support ukraine you’re branded,  so many people choose not to engage in these difficult conversations. But not I. I relish these discussions. The hardest discussions are the ones that need to be had the most.

“With reference to the conflict regarding Israel, do you believe that the UK government should be neutral and focus on being a peace-maker in the Middle East?“ So again, a difficult discussion that must be had, but we cannot begin that discussion starting at October 17th 2023, we must start many years before , the question you asked however is should the UK goverment be neutral?. I am pro life, I am Anti War, I as a person would encourage my government to avoid involvement in any conflict and act as a peacemaker. However, what I demand of my government is to call out genocide wherever it is. If i was to be elected, I would vote against ALL war unless it was in defense of our great nation.”

Guy Otten, Green party. His name is on the nomination form but he no longer has the support of the Green party and will not be actively campaigning. No response

As there was no response, all that can be said is: The Green party is broadly supportive of the government’s policies on Ukraine and Russia and support supplying arms to Ukraine.

The Green party has a policy which says more about what International bodies should do, not the UK government.

Ravin Rodent Subortna, Monster Raving Loony party. Responded.

My take regarding the recent world conflicts, I would change the R.A.F to F.A.R ( free air rides).. this would help lower travel costs.. I would also like to disarm weapons and replace them with Nerf competitions, appointing neutral countries to referee best out of three. If all three sets are a draw, a “ball breaker” final set last man standing in a game of dodge ball… this would prevent zero casualties and save wasting time fighting for fuel just to use the fuel to fight. Best regards, Ravin Rodent.

David Tully, Independent. No response.

The questions to candidates demonstrate key points about the quality of a potential MP

1) Are they too arrogant to bother with answering questions put to them? How approachable, open, and transparent are they prepared to be? Will they listen to and engage with the public and media on key political issues? Will they make the time available?

2)Will they be prepared to be accountable as individual MP’s, and not always toe the party line ( if they are in a party)?

In this election there have been candidates who have refrained from dealing with some major political issues because their parties have told them not to. Taking that into account, four of the 11 candidates responded and demonstrated to various degree, their preparedness to be open and accountable. It is up to the reader to judge how useful and forthcoming these replies were.

So, well done to the four candidates who know what MPs are supposed to do!

Rev. Mark Coleman, Independent.

George Galloway, Workers party of Great Britain.

William Howarth, Independent.

Ravin Rodent Subortna ( Nick Aurobus), The Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

The other candidates should face serious questions as to their reluctance to be open and transparent.

Written by Anthony Webber Independent Political Commentator.

*Article and photos originally published in Unity News. Anthony Webber is a freelance political commentator.


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