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George Galloway Wins Rochdale By-Election Overturning Labour Majority

George Galloway won the Rochdale by-election comfortably with a majority of almost 6,000. (Alamy)

5 min read

George Galloway, leader of the far-left Workers Party of Britain, has won the Rochdale by-election overturning Labour's 9,668 majority.

The former MP for Labour and Respect parties, and one-time Celebrity Big Brother contestant won comfortably in the previously Labour safe seat with a majority of 5,697, securing 12,335 votes overall.

The by-election was triggered when veteran Labour MP and former interim Manchester mayor, Tony Lloyd, died in-post at the age of 73 in January. 

Independent candidate David Anthony Tully came second with 6,638 votes, followed by Conservative candidate Paul Ellison with 3,731.

Councillor Azhar Ali, had been Labour's chosen replacement before the party formally withdrew its support after a leaked recording revealed him claiming MP Andy McDonald had the Labour whip removed due to "people in the media from certain Jewish quarters". Running as an independent candidate, he came in fourth with 2,402 votes.

In his victory speech, Galloway told the attendees "Keir Starmer: this is for Gaza –  and you will pay a high price, in enabling, encouraging and covering for, the catastrophe presently going on in occupied Palestine in the Gaza strip.

"Rochdale town councillors, I put you on notice now, that I hope to put together a grand alliance." 

After being interrupted by a heckler, Galloway continued. 

"The councillors have to go. I want to tell Mr Starmer above all, that the plates have shifted tonight," said Galloway.

"This is going to spark a movement, a landslide, a shifting of the tectonic plates in scores of parliamentary constituencies.

"Beginning here in the north west, in the West Midlands, in London, from Ilford to Bethnal Green and Bow, Labour is on notice that they have lost the confidence of millions of their voters who loyally and traditionally voted for them, generation after generation.

"I’ve heard some of the narrative being spun around this election result this evening. Yes its true, that every Muslim is bitterly angry at Keir Starmer and his listing Labour party.

"But you would be very foolish, if you did not realise that millions of other citizens of our country are too.

"Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak are two cheeks of the same backside and they both got well and truly spanked tonight!"

Another former Labour MP, Simon Danczuk, stood for the Reform party and came sixth with 1,968 votes behind the Liberal candidate Iain Donaldson – who secured 2,164 votes. 

Labour has apologised for the the by-election result, claiming Galloway was “only interested in stoking fear and division” and won because Labour did not have a candidate running in the seat. 

Rochdale was widely expected to be held by Labour before it withdrew its support for Ali. Despite the fact Labour formally withdrew support for him, however, his name still appeared next to Labour's on the ballot paper on Thursday as it had been too late to reprint them.

"We deeply regret that the Labour party was unable to field a candidate in this byelection and apologise to the people of Rochdale. George Galloway only won because Labour did not stand," said a Labour spokesperson. 

"Rochdale deserved the chance to vote for an MP that would bring communities together and deliver for working people. George Galloway is only interested in stoking fear and division. As an MP he will be a damaging force in our communities and public life.

"The Labour party will quickly begin the process to select a new Labour candidate for the general election, and will be campaigning hard to deliver the representation and fresh start that Rochdale deserves."

Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta, said Labour leader Keir Starmer would not be "losing any sleep over this result". 

"Indeed, all things considered, I don’t think Labour could have hoped for much from the result," said Hopkins.

"I also don’t think we can assume, based on these results, that a different Labour candidate who had been backed throughout the campaign would have just waltzed to an easy victory.

"A narrow Labour victory over Galloway, or even a defeat, with a different candidate, would have been far more humiliating than this one which Labour can effectively just write-off and move on from."

Reacting to Galloway's victory, Campaign Against Antisemitism said it was "extremely concerned" by Galloway's election as an MP, claiming he had an "atrocious record of baiting the Jewish community".

Galloway has frequently come under fire in the past for making remarks many in the British Jewish community view as antisemitic. 

"He has previously and infamously declared Bradford an ‘Israel-free zone’," the Campaign Against Antisemitism said on X.

"He said of his previous election loss that ‘the venal, the vile, the racists and the Zionists will all be celebrating’. He described David Baddiel, a Jewish comic who is well-known for not closely associating himself with Israel, as a ‘vile Israel-fanatic’.

"He claimed that the institutional antisemitism within the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn was really ‘a disgraceful campaign of Goebbelsian fiction’, in reference to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propagandist. He was sacked by TalkRadio over his views.

"Recently he has described the atrocity carried out by Hamas on 7th October as a ‘concentration camp breakout’ and referred to Hamas terrorists as ‘fighters’.

"Mr Galloway has now been chosen by the voters of Rochdale to represent them and is once again an MP. Given his historic inflammatory rhetoric and the current situation faced by the Jewish community in this country, we are extremely concerned by how he may use the platform of the House of Commons in the remaining months of this parliament."

Senior Tory MP and former minister Tobias Ellwood told Sky News the Rochdale by-election had been "chaotic" and "very, very horrible" to watch. 

"This should have been an easy win for Labour following the loss of Sir Tony Lloyd," said Ellwood. 

"But many Britons will be waking up today asking themselves if George Galloway is the answer, we really don't know what the question is.

"I read some of his literature - they are so full of hate. They are designed to rally fear, they are designed to cause division."

He added: "Ultimately, if you look at the language he is using, it is inflammatory - it doesn't offer answers. It only articulates problems.

"He plays politics very, very well indeed - but he offers no political leadership."

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