Sir Tony Lloyd's family urges 'divisive' politicians to stay away from by-election after MP's death

The family of Sir Tony Lloyd have urged "divisive" politicians to stay away from the contest to replace the Labour MP following his death from leukaemia earlier this month.

A writ to hold a by-election in his seat of Rochdale was laid before parliament on Monday, with the local council later confirming the vote would take place on 29 February.

Posting a statement on social media after the announcement, Sir Tony's family gave their backing to the Labour candidate, Azhar Ali, who runs Lancashire County Council's Labour group.

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They said his "dedication to public service and commitment to improving the lives of working people make him the ideal choice to carry on the incredible legacy Tony leaves behind".

But they also pleaded with more controversial candidates to avoid the contest altogether, adding: "People with divisive politics should not be using Tony's death to serve their personal interests and we urge all residents of Rochdale to unite and support Azhar Ali for a better Rochdale."

The statement comes after left-wing politician and former Celebrity Big Brother contestant George Galloway posted on X over the weekend that he would be standing in the upcoming by-election "to teach #Starmer and #GenocideLabour a lesson".

The controversial campaigner, who has received criticism for his stance on Israel and his TV show on Iranian state television, Press TV, formerly held seats as both a Labour and Respect Party MP, but is now leader of the Workers Party of Britain.

Candidates for other parties have yet to be announced.