Labour has not selected a non-English speaking candidate in the Rochdale by-election

8 February 2024
What was claimed

Labour’s candidate in the Rochdale by-election does not speak English

Our verdict

This is false. Both the candidate and the Labour MP seen endorsing him in a promotional video speak fluent English.

A number of posts on Facebook and also on X (formerly Twitter) wrongly claim that Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Rochdale is unable to speak English. 

Some of the posts link to a video showing two men addressing the camera, one of whom speaks in English while the other speaks in Urdu. An additional claim in some of the posts is that the man speaking in Urdu is translating the words of the man speaking in English. 

Neither claim is true. The man speaking Urdu is not a parliamentary candidate but rather Afzal Khan, a sitting Labour MP who speaks Urdu/Hindi, Punjabi, Pothwari and Arabic as well as English. It is the man speaking English in the video who is the parliamentary candidate, not Mr Khan. 

In addition, Mr Khan is not translating Mr Ali’s words, he is endorsing him. 

False or misleading claims online have the potential to harm individuals, groups and democratic processes and institutions. Online claims can spread fast and far, and are difficult to contain and correct.

The authors of many of the social media posts seem to have confused the identities of the two men. In the video, captions clearly identified the first man speaking as Azhar Ali, a Labour councillor in Lancashire who has been selected as the party’s candidate for the upcoming by-election in Rochdale.

After Mr Ali speaks in English about feeling proud to have been selected, a second caption identifies the next man speaking as Mr Khan. However, rather than translating Mr Ali’s words into Urdu, Mr Khan is delivering his personal endorsement to the candidate, using a language which is the second most commonly spoken in the Greater Manchester area after English. 

According to a Reuters translation of his words, Mr Khan says: “Yes, I'm also very happy that Azhar Ali, our brother, has been selected here in Rochdale on behalf of the Labour Party.

“Azhar is a very experienced politician who understands our joys and sorrows and our need to get a strong voice to the UK Parliament and this is a golden opportunity for our community, to make history, for our future generations as well. So, you should help Azhar and make him an MP.”

A spokesperson for Mr Khan confirmed that this translation of his endorsement of Mr Ali was accurate. 

Some of the Facebook posts also question the rules around language use in Parliament. The standing orders of the House of Commons state that proceedings must be carried out in English, though some Welsh is allowed in specific circumstances. 

Image courtesy of David Dixon

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