Meet the candidates standing in the Rochdale by-election

Rochdale by-election candidate George Galloway
Rochdale by-election candidate George Galloway with a supporter outside a local mosque - Asadour Guzelian

Voting to elect a new MP for Rochdale will take place this week, following the death of Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd in January.

It will mark the third by-election this month, with votes in Kingswood and Wellingborough having taken on Thursday Feb 15.

Rochdale has been held by Labour since 2010, though former MP Simon Danczuk briefly represented the constituency as an independent MP after his suspension from the party in 2015.

Sir Tony enjoyed a majority of 9,668 at the 2019 general election, meaning many people had expected Labour to take victory.

But Labour’s decision to withdraw support for candidate Azhar Ali has meant that all bets are off.

Here is the full list of candidates standing in the Rochdale by-election on Feb 29.

Azhar Ali

Labour withdrew its support for councillor Azhar Ali after he was embroiled in an anti-Semitism row and the deadline has passed for the party to choose a new contender.

Mr Ali claimed Israel ignored warnings about the Oct 7 attack by Hamas in order to have a “green light” to attack civilians in Gaza at a Lancashire Labour meeting.

He immediately retracted his claims and apologised after his comments were made public, claiming to have fallen for an online conspiracy theory. It was for this reason that Labour stood by Mr Ali.

However, new information about Mr Ali led the party to U-turn and withdraw its support.

Mr Ali is a former government adviser, having worked on the Prevent anti-extremism strategy, and was awarded an OBE for his public service in 2020.

He will still appear on ballot papers as Labour’s candidate and remains listed as such on Rochdale Borough Council’s by-election website.

Simon Danczuk

Simon Danczuk is Reform UK’s candidate.

He was elected as Labour MP for Rochdale in 2010 but was suspended from the party in 2015 after it emerged he had exchanged explicit text messages with a 17-year-old girl.

Mr Danczuk continued to represent Rochdale as an independent MP but was replaced by Sir Tony Lloyd in the 2017 general election.

At his defeat, Mr Danczuk said he was leaving politics for good and would not stand as an MP again.

However, he has since joined Reform after claiming Labour has gone “from work to woke”. He said the “stars had aligned” for his return to Rochdale only after he shifted his allegiance.

Simon Danczuk, the Reform UK candidate, campaigning on an open top bus
Simon Danczuk, the Reform UK candidate in Rochdale, campaigning from an open top bus - Christopher Furlong

George Galloway

A former Labour MP who has represented constituencies in Glasgow, London and Bradford, George Galloway is contesting Rochdale for the Workers Party of Britain.

Mr Galloway is a controversial figure, having once called the collapse of the Soviet union “the biggest catastrophe of my life”.

He has previously taken Labour to task over its stance on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and targeted Rochdale’s Muslim constituents in his campaigning.

Mr Galloway has expressed his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, posting denials of crimes that took place on Oct 7 to his social media channels.

Iain Donaldson

Iain Donaldson is the Liberal Democrat candidate for Rochdale.

He has nineteen years of experience as a councillor and has been endorsed by Paul Rowen, who was the Lib Dem MP for Rochdale between 2005 and 2010.

In a statement on the Lib Dem website, he said Labour had “taken people for granted because they just don’t listen”.

Paul Ellison

The Conservative candidate for Rochdale, Paul Ellison owns and runs a landscaping company.

He told a local newspaper he has volunteered and campaigned across the borough for thirty years.

Guy Otten

Guy Otten was the Green Party candidate for Rochdale until some of his old social media posts resurfaced and caused the party to withdraw their endorsement.

Mr Otten, a retired lawyer, said on X, formerly known as Twitter, in 2013 that the Quran was “not fit for the 21st century”.

He chose to step down from the race but his name and affiliation will still be listed on the ballot paper when voting takes place. He also remains a member of the Green Party.