Photo credit: Steve Houghton-Burnett / Unsplash

A FORMER Vicar of Rochdale, the Rev Mark Coleman, is standing as an Independent candidate in the Rochdale by-election, which was called following the death of the Labour MP, Sir Tony Lloyd.

Coleman, who has twice been jailed for climate protests, says: “Tony was a exceptional representative for Rochdale and he will be sadly missed. I have happy memories of working with him when I was the Vicar of Rochdale.”

Coleman retired early in 2020 due to Parkinsons’s disease, but continued to serve in Rochdale as a Church of England priest. In 2022 he was held on remand in HMP Birmingham for breaking a court order by standing outside the Kingsbury Oil terminal holding up a sign saying: “Jesus Wept”. In April 2023 he was sentenced to five weeks in prison for his part in an Insulate Britain roadblock, sitting on the road at Bishopsgate, London.

In his election statement, Coleman says: “Vote for me in this election to show you want failing Westminster politicians to step up and defend our future.

“We need politicians who will act to stop global energy companies burning our future to make eye watering profits. We need MPs who put the defence of ordinary people ahead of big business. MPs who understand that the climate and cost of living crises are part of the same thing – a system which benefits the rich elites at the expense of the rest of us. MPs who do what is right rather than what is easy. MPs prepared to say what is happening in Gaza is genocide and that an immediate ceasefire is urgently needed. If elected I will be such an MP.

“We have one of the highest rates of child poverty in the UK. Our food banks are at their limit. Our mortgages, rent and energy bills are sky high. These problems can be addressed through taxing the super-rich, removing the billions paid to big oil companies each year in tax breaks and subsidies, and a rapid switch to cheap renewable energy.

“I am not prepared to watch while the government plans for millions of people to die and Labour goes along with it. 2023 was the hottest year on record – soon we’ll be having food shortages. What does that mean for Rochdale families? Both Labour and Tory politicians are not being honest about the scale of the crisis and the speed of change we need to avoid disaster. We need to come together and choose a new future.”

Coleman’s candidacy has received support from Just Stop Oil, the campaign to end the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK. They say: “Just Stop Oil supports The Reverend.”

* Information on all the candidates in the Rochdale by-election here.

* More information on Mark Coleman here.

* Sources: Rochdale Online  and Just Stop Oil