‘This is for Gaza’: George Galloway after winning Rochdale byelection

He won almost 40 per cent of the vote


A veteran British political disruptor has won a special election in a town in northern England with a big Muslim minority following a contest that was mired in chaos and controversy and dominated by the war in Gaza.

George Galloway, 69, swept to victory in Thursday's contest, winning almost 40% of the vote in the parliamentary seat of Rochdale.

In his victory speech, Galloway took aim at Keir Starmer, the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, who according to opinion polls is likely to become Britain's prime minister at the general election this year.

Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza," he said. "You have paid, and you will pay, a high price for the role that you have played in enabling, encouraging and covering for the catastrophe presently going on in occupied Palestine in the Gaza Strip.

Galloway, a former Labour member of parliament who was expelled from the party in 2003, also declared Labour is on notice and a shifting of the tectonic plates".

Labour said Galloway only won because the party pulled its support for its candidate, Azhar Ali, for suggesting Israel was complicit in Hamas' attack on Oct 7. Without the backing of Labour, Ali ended up coming fourth.

Galloway's victory means that from next week, Parliament will once again be home to one of the most eloquent orators from the left wing of UK politics, who will clearly use his position to raise his opposition to Israel's operation in Gaza.

George Galloway is someone who stokes up division and fear," said Ellie Reeves, Labour's deputy national campaign co-ordinator. "This isn't how we would have wanted this by-election to play out.

The constituency of Rochdale has traditionally been a Labour seat, one where the governing Conservative Party makes little headway. Its candidate came in third.

Galloway, who now leads the Workers Party of Britain, started out his political career half a century ago as a firebrand left-wing Labour MP for a constituency in Glasgow.

He has been a controversial figure for decades, and faced widespread opposition for meeting in 1994 the then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and telling him: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.

In 2004, he returned to Parliament as a lawmaker for the anti-war Respect Party after a special election in a heavily Muslim seat in east London, but was defeated at the general election the following year.

He was elected again at a special election in 2012 with a swing of 37% from Labour to Respect but lost his seat once more in the election of 2015.

In 2019 Galloway was fired from a talk-radio show for a social media post that the radio station judged antisemitic.

As well as being an eloquent advocate for his political views, which saw him take US Senators to task in 2005, Galloway has also courted ridicule, most notably in 2006 when he impersonated a cat in the reality television show Celebrity Big Brother.

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