Rochdale candidates make pitch to voters ahead of election
Date published: 27 November 2019
Rochdale is preparing to go to the polls for the first winter election in nearly 100 years – but can Labour win again in this leave area while Brexit is the key issue?
Labour’s Tony Lloyd has represented Rochdale since 2017, when he replaced scandal-stricken predecessor Simon Danczuk as the Labour candidate.
Now shadow Northern Ireland secretary, he was elected with 58% of the vote, beating off competition from the Tories’ Jane Howard and Lib Dem Andy Kelly – both of whom still sit on the borough council, Kelly as group leader.
The constituency has ping-ponged between Labour and Lib Dem representation over recent decades – including by disgraced Liberal Party (later Lib Dem) MP Cyril Smith between 1972 and 1992.
Labour will be favourites to retain the seat – having increased their vote share by nearly 12% in 2017 – despite Rochdale local authority area having voted 60% in favour of leave in 2016.
However, the Lib Dems Andy Kelly has increased his profile as an outspoken performer in the council chamber and is standing against Andy Burnham in next year’s mayoral election.
Conservative newcomer Atifa Shah says she will be flying the flag for ‘aspiration’ in Rochdale and believes her business contacts would enable her to attract investment to her home town.
Elsewhere, The Brexit Party’s Chris Green will believe he could be a dark horse in the race, given Rochdale voted 60% in favour of leaving the EU at the 2016 referendum.
And the fact Rochdale council declared a climate change emergency in July, will encourage the Green Party’s Dr Sarah Croke – as the environment becomes increasingly important to voters.
Below, the five candidates vying for the seat set out their stall ahead of the election on December 12.
Dr Sarah Croke (Green Party) - A lifelong Rochdale resident who works at the University of Manchester as a researcher in NHS health policy.
“As a resident of Rochdale, I am able to understand and represent the concerns and priorities of people in this constituency.
“I previously led a successful campaign (and secured funding) to improve play facilities in the town and have twice been a Green Party candidate in the local elections.
“I am active within local amateur theatre and am a keen supporter of Rochdale Music Service, where both my children are young musicians
“If elected, I will work towards creating a more caring society where everybody feels valued and has equal opportunities.
“I will work to improve transport, air quality, housing, public health and social care; and increase the support available for people to participate in activities that have been shown to support mental health and wider wellbeing i.e. nature, sport and arts activities.
“I am committed to preserving our greenbelt and open spaces as once this green land is lost it will never be replaced.”
Chris Green MBE (Brexit Party) – A candidate with ’50 years affiliation with Rochdale’, the former oilfield worker now lives in Denshaw, Saddleworth.
“I believe in democracy, equality and sovereignty. These three basics are why I joined the Brexit party.
“The people of Rochdale have spoken almost 60 per cent voted to leave the EU to get our own laws back, our fishing waters, our armed forces our borders to name a few but their current Labour MP has consistently refused, ignored and undemocratically voted against his constituents.
“This is not the parliamentary system we want. Parliament works for the people not the reverse.
“Nigel Farage has released an excellent contract, (not a manifesto which now is just a list of soon to be broken promises) which promotes change, democracy, that are basic common sense and promote a very bright future.
“It’s available for anybody online to view in detail. I’m promoting a bright future for Rochdale with investment in the area, investment in the NHS, controlled immigration, and an MP who will listen. Vote Brexit party to make sure Brexit happens for our bright future.”
Andy Kelly (Liberal Democrats) – The current leader of the council’s Lib Dem group, the 50-year-old is a former senior youth worker who now works for the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
“I am the only candidate standing in Rochdale who can call the constituency home and is Rochdale born and bred.
“I believe my passion and pride in Rochdale will win over thousands of voters, even Brexit supporters.
“I have a track record as a tireless campaigner for Milnrow and Newhey (where I am a councillor) and more widely in the Rochdale borough.
“I believe people are craving an MP who is down to earth, hard-working and utterly committed to restoring pride in Rochdale.
“I am standing locally on a platform of fighting Labour’s plans to build on the greenbelt, on running a seven-days-a-week constituency office in the town centre and re-building Rochdale’s reputation following numerous political scandals."
Tony Lloyd (Labour) - Elected as Rochdale’s MP in 2017 and appointed as shadow Northern Ireland secretary by Jeremy Corbyn.
“People in Rochdale will soon decide what kind of country we want for ourselves and our loved ones. The majority will choose hope.
“We’ve been let down by Tory (and LibDem) cuts which have left schools underfunded robbing our children, or an NHS whose brilliant medical professionals can no longer properly cope and offer the sick the care they need.
“Too many families are now struggling as incomes simply don’t keep pace with prices.
“We know we can do better. Labour’s costed plans will see us rebuild our shattered public services and invest in the technologies and jobs of the future and make our country a global leader in combatting climate change.
“And on Brexit, we’ll reject PM Johnson’s dangerous plans which will let US health companies into our NHS. Labour will renegotiate a deal that protects trade, jobs, environmental and food standards, as well as rights at work. A workable Brexit or Remain: let the people decide."
Atifa Shah (Conservative) – A former youth MP and Rochdale Sixth Form College governor, she is currently the regional vice chair for the Prince’s Trust.
“It’s time to give democracy the respect that it deserves, and to give the people of Rochdale the platform and voice that we have failed to get under Labour.
“I know what our residents worry about because I worry about the same things. We don’t need the same results that Labour has always delivered in this town; underinvestment and under supported, we deserve more.
“I’m a born and bred Rochdale lass and as youth MP for Rochdale (2005-2007) I led many campaigns, including one which led to the opening of Rochdale Sixth Form and fought the Labour government in 2007 against the closure of Rochdale Infirmary,
“We need bold ambitious plans for Rochdale, and I am here to ensure that my Rochdale prospers, grows, and becomes a hub of opportunity for the talent we have here.
“I intend to lead with presence.”
Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter
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