Labour may have its work cut out to win the Rochdale by-election, if a viral video that has emerged of its candidate - a Lancashire councillor - being challenged on the Gaza conflict.

Pendle's Azhar Ali, a Lancashire County councillor and former government adviser who was made an OBE in 2020 for public service, is Labour’s candidate for the poll later this month.

The by-election was triggered by the death of sitting MP Sir Tony Lloyd, with Mr Ali hoping to retain the seat for Labour.

Also running is George Galloway, of the Workers Party of Britain, who is hinging his campaign on Labour’s stance on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and former Rochdale Labour MP Simon Danczuk, now the Reform Party candidate.

Around 20 per cent of the electorate and 30 per cent of the population of the town are Asian, with polls nationally suggesting Labour’s vote could be hit by Asian voters who would have previously backed the party unhappy with it's stance on the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Labour, along with the Conservative government, have both called for 'humanitarian pauses' to allow aid in and the release of hostages, and back a two-state solution.

At a campaign launch in Rochdale on Wednesday morning, Labour activists were told “others” have come to the town “to try to divide us”.

This referenced George Galloway's previous campaign, where he won Bradford West in 2012 for the Respect Party.

Mr Ali, whose campaign pitch is “A strong voice for Rochdale”, concentrated his launch address on the cost of living and local issues, and said he is “focused on delivering for people here”.

He said Rochdale had lost £180 million from council budgets due to Conservative Government cuts and 130,000 local people are on NHS waiting lists.

But he said he has been campaigning on Palestine since the age of 17 and called for a ceasefire in Gaza, the return of hostages, humanitarian assistance and a revived international political process for a free Palestinian state.

“Our campaign is all about making our town better. The need for a Labour government has never been greater,” he said.

Mr Ali also offered a crackdown on anti-social behaviour, local maternity services being returned to Rochdale, and free breakfast clubs in every primary school.



However, a viral video this week showed the disdain people were showing for the party.

In footage from a takeaway, young residents could be seen shouting ‘Free Free Palestine’ to canvassers, as well as shouting 'F*** Labour'.

The video was shared across WhatsApp and social media with people saying other Labour candidates would be handed the same treatment.

Andy Burnham, Labour’s Mayor of Greater Manchester, who was also at the launch, said 2024 has to be a year of change for the North of England and Britain – starting with Rochdale.

He said a decade ago the Tory Government had promised a Northern Powerhouse – which, he claimed, has not materialised.

“The Conservative Party is guilty of perpetrating a huge fraud on the people of the North of England and they won’t forget it,” he said, “People here need change.”

Sir Tony held the seat for Labour at the 2019 election with a 9,668 majority over the Conservatives.

Polling aggregation website Electoral Calculus currently predicts Labour has a 100 per cent chance of holding the seat.

Voters go to the polls on Thursday, February 29.