George Galloway aiming to field 100 candidates in general election, as he looks to unseat Labour's Angela Rayner

4 March 2024, 23:28 | Updated: 5 March 2024, 07:49

George Galloway will aim to unseat Angela Rayner in the general election
George Galloway will aim to unseat Angela Rayner in the general election. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

George Galloway's party is aiming to field as many as 100 candidates in the general election as he seeks to unseat Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner.

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The Workers Party of Britain leader, who won the Rochdale by-election last week, said he was looking to "take chunks out of Labour" and ensure that Ms Rayner lost her Greater Manchester seat later this year.

Mr Galloway, a former Labour MP, was sworn in by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on Monday, and said it was "lovely to be back".

After taking his seat in the Commons, Mr Galloway said: "It’s my job to try and make Rochdale great again".

The controversial politician, who gained support from many Muslims for his vocal backing of Gaza, said he thought the next election would be fought on the issue of Palestine and Islam.

Read more: ‘Galloway only won because Labour didn’t stand’: Keir Starmer vows to fight back in Rochdale at general election

Read more: George Galloway probably has only a few months to make a mark - but is likely to cause a headache for Keir Starmer

Newly elected MP for Rochdale, George Galloway, with his wife Putri Gayatri Pertiwi on Monday
Newly elected MP for Rochdale, George Galloway, with his wife Putri Gayatri Pertiwi on Monday. Picture: Alamy

“It’s clear to me that Sunak has identified Muslims and Gaza as the proximate centre of that wedge issue that he intends to use as perhaps his only hope of re-election," he said.

“They want to force Starmer either to stand up and defend the democratic rights of the British people, including the rights of its religious and ethnic minorities – and if he does that I’m a Dutchman – or to engage him in what will turn out to be a Dutch auction of nastiness.

“If he chooses, as I suspect he will, the latter, that’s going to allow us and independent candidates to pick up potentially millions of votes from those who treasure the free rights that we have enjoyed since the Second World War in this country, and who wish to defend the Muslim communities in Britain.

Cross Question panelists butt heads over who is responsible for George Galloway's election

“Either way, that suits Rishi Sunak. So that’s what I’m predicting here. The next election will be about Muslims, and will be about the taking away of civil liberties in this country.”

He said he was speaking on behalf of lots of people in the UK, adding that the popularity of his views would become clear to Sir Keir.

Mr Galloway said: "If I give you just one example: Angela Rayner has a parliamentary majority I think of around 3,000. There’s at least 15,000 supporters of my point of view in her constituency.

“So we’ll be putting a candidate against her, either a Workers Party candidate or more likely an independent candidate that we support, and that will vitally affect the election of the Labour deputy.”

Ali Miraj says George Galloway won by-election 'fair and square'

Speaking exclusively to LBC on Monday, Mr Galloway revealed his party could see as many as 100 candidates stand in an election.

He said: "We’re heading towards 90 and we might even reach 100. It’s our job to take chunks out of Labour."

After being sworn in, Mr Galloway said that he will attempt to speak at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, or failing that, in the budget debate afterward - although he claimed he is “unlikely to be chosen” for either.

Mr Galloway won the Rochdale seat last Thursday after a by-election was triggered by the death of Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd in January.

Labour has vowed to fight back at the general election, which is almost certain to be later this year. Sir Keir said that Galloway only won Rochdale because Labour did not put up a candidate, after Azhar Ali lost the party's backing because of anti-Semitic comments.

Labour's Dawn Butler also told LBC's Andrew Marr that Labour would be standing a strong candidate in Rochdale in the general election.

Mr Galloway was sworn in on Monday.
Mr Galloway was sworn in on Monday. Picture: Alamy

Labour had initially expected a straightforward path to victory in the vote, but that changed when it emerged that Mr Ali had pushed anti-Israel conspiracies.

The party then withdrew its support Mr Ali, who came in fourth behind David Tully, an independent, and Conservative Paul Ellison.

Sir Keir claimed George Galloway only won the Rochdale by-election because Labour didn't stand a candidate.

Speaking after Mr Galloway’s victory, Sir Keir said his party would field a "first-class candidate" in the general election, likely to be this autumn.

Immediately after winning the by-election last week, Mr Galloway said: "Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza."

"Your abandonment of traditional Labour values, your embrace of neoliberal economics and imperialist politics abroad is going to be the death of your party and it richly deserves it."

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