Monday, July 15, 2024
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Rochdale by-election: A town ignored and now inflamed


ROCHDALE, the former textile manufacturing town now infamous for its grooming gangs, is once again the focus of national attention. The by-election following the death of Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd that has become marred in a climate of fear, intimidation (including a death threat to one of the candidates) and sectarianism, takes place today[CK1]  among 11 contenders.

I witnessed the ‘weirdest by-election in modern history’ when I went to distribute leaflets for the Reform Party candidate, Simon Danczuk, the town’s former Labour MP who received said death threat. He was also refused entry to the local hustings and has seen supporting businesses threatened with firebombing. I was walking into a perfect storm.

The Labour Party had just withdrawn support from its original parliamentary candidate, Azhar Ali, after a recording leaked by Guido Fawkes revealed his remarks that Israel had allowed the October 7 attacks by Hamas as a pretext to invade Gaza. The Labour leadership defended him until publication of his further anti-Semitic comments criticising Jewish media personalities.

The latest from Mr Ali was that he is still standing (as an independent). But attention had moved quickly on to George Galloway, another former Labour MP but since 2019 leader of the Workers Party of Britain.

The ‘veteran agitator’ as described here (though inflammatory might be a better adjective), is playing to both sides of the house in Rochdale, condemning the ‘carnage’ in Gaza to the 30 per cent Muslim constituency while (according to the New Statesman) ‘using anti-woke language in whiter, more Conservative areas’. A man who once pledged his friendship to Saddam Hussein, Galloway has a record of courting the Muslim vote, winning Bradford West in 2012 for Respect, the party he led from 2013 until its dissolution in 2016.

What greeted me on arrival was a firestorm brewing from a febrile mixture of radical Islamism and far left socialism. Galloway claims to be fighting a Gazan genocide orchestrated by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and to be seeking justice for the Palestinian people. His campaign posters dotted around town are Palestinian flags. Galloway blatantly proposes to turn the by-election into a referendum on cease-fire in Gaza and thinks Muslim voters will go for it. It’s crude and ruthless politics. Rochdale now has the potential to ignite a powder keg of extremism which Galloway has been stoking with pro-Hamas rhetoric reportedly blasted twice weekly from a Suzuki showroom.

But what does Galloway’s barnstorming on Gaza have to do with the needs of Rochdale? Nothing except to self-servingly big up his own name and throw his hat into the same arena as Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak.

Reform Party candidate Simon Danczuk is well aware of the issues faced by the people of Rochdale. He is from Lancashire and served as the borough’s MP from 2010 to 2017. He knows it as the town where law enforcement officials turned a blind eye for years to the mass grooming, rape and trafficking of underaged girls by Muslim gangs, and as a town that deserves better. The town’s history is blighted with such abuses, as Danczuk exposed the late former Liberal MP Cyril Smith as a serial molester of boys there from the 1960s through the 1980s, and also consistently intervened to stop the town’s grooming gangs.

Our Reform campaign team got a mixed reception – a few ‘two fingers’ and sour faces but also an encouraging number of thumbs-up and smiles on doorsteps. Not least, I suspect, because Danczuk’s local background positions him well to beat Galloway (whom many in middle class neighbourhoods abhor), but also due to his evident concern to address the less happy truths of this town, which its residents can attest to: poverty, low growth and wage depression, lack of local investment, substandard public transport connections, a surfeit of derelict and vacant properties, high crime rates and the proliferation of gangs, and run-down shopping streets hosting aggrieved and dispossessed youths.

One of the lowest income areas of the country, where about 40 per cent of children live below the poverty line, by the first quarter of 2023 the borough had become home to 851 asylum seekers in receipt of financial and housing support, significantly higher than most other such towns, according to Home Office statistics. The town is a prime example of a low-income Britain dumping ground. Who decided this was a suitable place for mainly male asylum seekers when its own youth population had been so dehumanised and were still so vulnerable and traumatised? Subjected to the most horrific abuse and violation, even blamed and treated as pariahs, the cries of Rochdale’s girl victims should be echoing alongside the screams of those massacred and tortured in Israel on October 7 that George Galloway appears to be so unconcerned about.

But they are not. Galloway’s appeals to the disaffected, along with his support for the Hamas terrorists, have ensured this. Just as establishment elites never bothered to address the integration of Rochdale’s immigrant community from the 1960s onwards (many of whom came to work in textile mills that closed 20 years later and are still outliers from the communities in which they settled), their successors in local leadership and police were remiss in ignoring the pleas of worried parents concerning their daughters’ safety. Rochdale’s atrocities are a terrible testament to the establishment’s total disregard of the reality of immigration under cover of multicultural wishful thinking – let alone the responsibilities that go with it.

Danczuk (whose ethnic origins are Polish and background is working class, having worked in a local factory at the age of 16) understands these issues and wants to make Rochdale a better place for both the 30 per cent Muslim community and the majority white one. His policies are for the people of Rochdale, without the divisive and sectarian point-scoring or dog-whistling that characterises Gallaway’s. Danczuk wants to prioritise local businesses, refresh the high streets and encourage unity by efforts to integrate micro-communities, and desegregating along along racial and religious lines. He says his ‘priority is putting Rochdale first’. He also did not stand idly by during the years of child rape. Instead he exposed it.

Galloway in contrast is a careerist who sees Rochdale as a stepping stone to his grand ambitions. This is obvious in his stated view that the by-election ‘is a referendum on . . . Gaza’ and that winning the town’s seat will bestow on him a ‘mandate’ to push for an ‘immediate and complete ceasefire, followed by Israeli withdrawal from the territory’.

For the embattled people of Rochdale, a victory for Simon Danczuk would herald a turnaround, infusing this distressed former manufacturing town with new investment and employment opportunities, regeneration of vital infrastructure for communities to flourish and the drawing together of disparate groups on common ground rather the sowing of divisions.

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Bridget Jones 2024
Bridget Jones 2024
Bridget Jones

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