Former Labour MP George Galloway storms to victory in Rochdale by-election after chaotic campaign

1 March 2024, 02:52 | Updated: 1 March 2024, 07:27

Ex-Labour MP George Galloway has stormed to victory in the Rochdale by-election
Ex-Labour MP George Galloway has stormed to victory in the Rochdale by-election. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Former Labour MP George Galloway has stormed to victory in the Rochdale by-election, taking the seat from his former party with a majority almost 6,000 votes.

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It follows a chaotic campaign, which Galloway described as a "poll on Gaza".

His party, the Workers Party of Great Britain, stormed to victory with 12,335 votes.

Galloway started his acceptance speech by saying: "Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza."

Speaking to LBC after his victory, Galloway said Starmer has "abandoned traditional Labour values" and that this would lead to the "destruction" of his party.

He also told LBC's Henry Riley he is the 'Cristiano Ronaldo of politics' and is on a 'short-term, five-year contract with Rochdale FC'.

New Rochdale MP George Galloway on what he would say to Keir Starmer 'in the toilets of Parliament'

Neither Labour, the Liberal Democrats, nor the Conservatives performed well in this by-election, which was called after the death of Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd last month.

David Tully, who stood as an independent candidate, came in second with 6,638 votes.

The Labour Party had initially expected the by-election to be straightforward.

But when it emerged that its candidate Azhar Ali - who came fourth - had told Labour Party members anti-Israel conspiracies, the election campaign sprialled into chaos.

The Labour Party said it was too late to officially drop Ali from the ballot, though he technically still stood as a Labour candidate.

After the result, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “We deeply regret that the Labour party unable to field a candidate in this by-election and apologise to the people of Rochdale. George Galloway only won because Labour did not stand.

“Rochdale deserved the chance to vote for an MP that would bring communitities 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 communties and public life.

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

George Galloway
George Galloway. Picture: Alamy

"You have paid and you will pay a high price for the roll you have played in enabling, encouraging and covering for the catastrophe presently going on in occupied Palestine in the Gaza Strip," Galloway told a crowd in Rochdale after his victory.

"I want to tell Mr Starmer above all, that the plates have shifted tonight. 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."

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Since his victory in Rochdale, the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) accused Galloway of having an "atrocious record of baiting the Jewish community".

Galloway described Bradford, where he was an MP in 2014, as an Israel-free zone in 2014.

"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," the CAA said.

Much of Galloway's campaign centred around the conflict in Gaza, with Rochdale having a large Muslim population.

Workers Party of Britain candidate George Calloway speaks after being declared the winner in the Rochdale by-election
Workers Party of Britain candidate George Calloway speaks after being declared the winner in the Rochdale by-election. Picture: Getty

The chaotic nature of the by-election continued even after the results were in and declared, with an environment protester running onto stage as Galloway gave his winners speech.

The protester opened a box of orange confetti and threw it in Galloway's direction as he stood on stage.

The Rochdale by-election results in full

  • George Galloway (Workers Party of Britain) - 12,335
  • David Anthony Tully (Independent) - 6,638
  • Paul Simon Ellison (Conservative) - 3,731
  • Azhar Ali (Labour candidate but dropped by party) - 2,402
  • Iain Donaldson (Liberal Democrats) - 2,164
  • Simon Christopher Danczuk (Reform UK) - 1,968
  • William Leckie Howarth (Independent) - 523
  • Mark Coleman (Independent) - 455
  • Guy Nicholas Otten (Green) - 436
  • Michael Howarth (Independent) - 246
  • Ravin Rodent Subortna (Monster Raving Loony Party) - 209

The overall turnout in the by-election stood at 39.7%.

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