'This is for Gaza': George Galloway wins Rochdale by-election

By John Mercury March 1, 2024

Divisive left-wing firebrand George Galloway has won the Rochdale by-election, declaring: “This is for Gaza.”

Labour has apologised for not fielding a candidate and warned the incoming MP will stoke “fear and division”.

Marking his political comeback, Mr Galloway, who was standing for the Workers Party of Britain, secured victory with almost 40% of the vote following a campaign dogged by controversy and dominated by the Middle East conflict.

Politics Live: Galloway celebrates victory in Rochdale by-election

The former Labour MP and Celebrity Big Brother contestant gained 12,335 votes, a majority of 5,697, on a turnout of 39.7%.

Independent candidate and local businessman David Tully was the surprise runner-up receiving 6,638 votes, followed by Conservative Paul Ellison with 3,731.

Labour had been expected to win the seat until its campaign was thrown into turmoil after their candidate Azhar Ali was engulfed in an antisemitism row.

The party withdrew its support from Mr Ali, but by this time it was too late to remove his name from the ballot paper.

He ended up in fourth place with 2,402 votes.

George Galloway has confetti thrown at him by Just Stop Oil protestors after being declared the winner. Pic: PA
George Galloway has confetti thrown at him by Just Stop Oil protesters after being declared the winner. Pic: PA

Mr Galloway had campaigned heavily on the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, courting the Muslim vote in Rochdale.

In his victory speech he said: “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.”

He added: “This is going to spark a movement, a landslide, a shifting of the tectonic plates in scores of parliamentary constituencies.

“Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak are two cheeks of the same backside and they both got well and truly spanked tonight.”

Read more:
Starmer should be very, very, worried after Galloway win
Who is George Galloway, the new MP for Rochdale?

Speaking to Sky News later he said the Labour leader had “sold his soul to the Israel lobby” and said no state has a right to exist as he defended his “from the river to the sea” call.

This slogan has been used as a call for a Palestinian state between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan – and the effective removal of the state of Israel.

Mr Galloway said: “What is objectionable about people being free between a river and sea?”

Asked if he did not want Israel to exist, Mr Galloway told Sky News: “Well, no state has a right to exist.

“Not the Soviet Union, not Czechoslovakia, not the Zionist apartheid state of Israel.”

Labour’s deputy national campaign coordinator Ellie Reeves told Sky News: “Labour regrets that we couldn’t stand a candidate in this by-election and we apologise to the people of Rochdale for that.

“George Galloway is someone who stokes up division and fear and this isn’t how we would have wanted this to play out.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

‘No state has a right to exist’

Pressed on the likelihood of Labour taking back the seat at the general election, she added: “We fight for every vote, we are not complacent about anything.”

She declined to congratulate the new MP on his win.

Conservative former minister Tobias Ellwood said campaign literature produced by Mr Galloway was “full of hate” and “designed to rally fear”.

The senior Tory backbencher said: “He plays politics very very well indeed, but he offers no political leadership.”

Electoral Dysfunction
Electoral Dysfunction

Don’t miss analysis of the Rochdale result this afternoon from Beth Rigby, Jess Phillips and Ruth Davidson in a new weekly podcast from Sky News

Tap here to follow

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said: “His election is a dark day for the Jewish community in this country and for British politics in general.”

Reform UK’s leader Richard Tice claimed his candidate, former Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, had received a death threat during the campaign and said his party’s campaign team had been subject to “daily intimidation and slurs”.

He said: “We are supposed to be a beacon of democracy, this shameful contest has been more characteristic of a failed state.”

Mr Danczuk, who previously represented the seat as a Labour MP but was barred from standing for the party in 2017 after apologising for “inappropriate” text messages sent to a 17-year-old girl, finished in sixth place after the Liberal Democrats.

Rochdale is one of the most deprived towns in England and has been the subject of grooming gang scandals in recent years, with a major report in January concluding young girls were left “at the mercy” of paedophiles due to failings by senior police and council bosses.

Residents in the constituency likened the by-election to a “pantomime”.

The contest was triggered by the death of Labour stalwart Sir Tony Lloyd, following a battle with leukaemia.


Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *