the election in the town of Rochdale sharpens tensions within Labor, against the backdrop of the war in Gaza

With around 110,000 inhabitants, almost a third of whom are British of Indian-Pakistani origin, Rochdale, north of Manchester, is one of those typical towns in the north of England. This former industrial stronghold has still not returned to prosperity after the closure of its cotton mills in the second half of the 20th century.e century: its social services are chronically underfunded, the child poverty rate is around 30%. To darken the picture, Rochdale stood out in the mid-2010s for the existence of a gang of child molesters which caused dozens of victims.

On Thursday February 29, residents of Rochdale are being asked to renew their MP in a by-election which will certainly do little to improve the reputation of the town and its surrounding areas. The BBC even wonders if it’s not about the election “the most chaotic” never having taken place in the United Kingdom. It was sparked by the death of Sir Tony Lloyd, a respected Labor MP. He would probably have been replaced by another Labor MP, given Labor’s lead over the Conservatives in the polls, if the war in Gaza had not created strong tensions within the party.

Labor leader Keir Starmer withdrew the party’s sponsorship of its official candidate, Azhar Ali, on February 13, after the Mail on Sunday revealed that the latter had peddled conspiracy theories about Israel during a political meeting – he claimed that the Jewish state would have ” permit ” the attacks of October 7, 2023 by Hamas to justify the offensive against Gaza. After procrastinating, Mr. Starmer sanctioned him, deeming his remarks anti-Semitic. The leader made the fight against anti-Semitism within Labor his priority when he succeeded Jeremy Corbyn, himself ousted from the party for refusing to take this problem seriously.

“Shaking the walls for Gaza”

This episode occurring far too close to the poll, Labor was not authorized by British electoral rules to present an alternative candidate. Mr Ali is therefore still campaigning in Rochdale, without any political label. And he is opposed to two other ex-Labour members, who intend to take advantage of this twist to score points locally. The conservative candidate, also in the running, is barely campaigning, aware of the unfavorable balance of power. One, Simon Danczuk, was elected Labor MP for Rochdale in 2010, but he was suspended from the party in 2015 after exchanging sexual messages with a 17-year-old underage girl. He is now running under the colors of the far-right Reform UK party, co-founded by Nigel Farage.

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