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Paul Waugh to fight Rochdale seat for Labour

Jeremy Corbyn (left), Yvette Cooper (2nd left), Paul Waugh (centre), Andy Burnham (2nd right) and Liz Kendall (right). Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. That appears to be Paul Waugh’s guiding mantra anyway, after the former chief political commentator for the i newspaper put himself forward for the Rochdale candidacy for a second time this year. He has now been successful and will stand as Labour’s candidate for the seat in the looming general election. All’s well that ends well, eh?

Waugh announced at the start of the year that he was stepping down from his top newspaper job to try to be selected for Rochdale after the death of veteran MP Tony Lloyd on 17 January — but the hack was unsuccessful after Labour’s Rochdale members picked Azhar Ali to represent the party at the by-election. However this quickly turned out to be a rather suboptimal choice. It transpired just weeks before the February poll that Ali had made some rather, um, controversial comments about the war in the Middle East. In a leaked recording from a local Labour meeting, Ali was found to have claimed that Israel deliberately allowed the 7 October massacre to give it the ‘green light’ to invade Gaza.

And the damning revelations didn’t end there. The Labour candidate was also reported to have said that ‘people in the media from certain Jewish quarters’ were ‘giving crap’ about Andy McDonald — a Labour MP suspended for using the phrase ‘between the river and the sea’ during a pro-Palestine rally. Ali was duly dropped as Labour’s man but due to time constraints, the party couldn’t put forward another candidate and his name remained on the ballot paper. What a mess…

Sir Keir Starmer will be hoping to avoid a similar catastrophe this time, pitting the well-known, Rochdale-born commentator against incumbent MP and leader of the Workers Party of Britain, George Galloway. Galloway sailed to success with a 5,600 majority after campaigning almost exclusively on the Israel-Gaza conflict in an area where around a third of the electorate is made up of Muslim voters. But whether ‘Gorgeous George’ has achieved all that much for the people of, er, Rochdale will soon be put to the test…

For his part, Labour’s new candidate took to Twitter on Wednesday night to proclaim his good news, saying: 

It’s a true honour to have been selected as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for my home town. Rochdale desperately needs a Labour government and a Labour MP to end 14 years of Tory chaos and decline. We need an MP who can unite the town, and who reflects the basic decency and local pride that all us Rochdalians share. Labour is back in the service of working people. And I’ll do everything in my power to ensure that Rochdale gets an NHS back on its feet and the economic renewal its residents deserve.

Where there’s a Waugh there’s a way…

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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