George Galloway claims he’s on track for ‘comfortable’ victory in Rochdale by-election following divisive campaign

1 March 2024, 01:40 | Updated: 1 March 2024, 02:01

The vote-counting got underway on Thursday evening.
The vote-counting got underway on Thursday evening. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

The Workers Party candidate believes he has won the Rochdale by-election 'comfortably' as the vote-counting continues.

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Representatives of Mr Galloway's Workers Party of Britain have said George will 'win by a fair margin' speaking ahead of the result.

James Giles, campaign manager for Mr Galloway, said: "It is going better than our wildest hopes.

"George will win here by a fair margin."

The Rochdale by-election was called following the death of Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd aged 73 last month.

The campaign that followed was divisive, and saw Labour’s bid to retain the seat fall apart after the party’s official candidate Azhar Ali became embroiled in an anti-Semitism row.

The row culminated in Labour withdrawing its support for Mr Ali after he was filmed suggesting Israel was complicit in the massacre of its own people on October 7.

Mr Ali remained on the ballot on Friday as it was too late to remove his name. He will sit as an independent MP if he wins.

After ditching support for Mr Ali, former Labour MP and Celebrity Big Brother contestant George Galloway emerged as the bookies' favourite for the Rochdale seat.

Mr Galloway, representing the Workers Party of Britain, has campaigned heavily on the Palestinian cause in Gaza, aiming to use the issue to mobilise Muslim voters in Rochdale.

George Galloway emerged as the frontrunner early on.
George Galloway emerged as the frontrunner early on. Picture: Alamy

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Polls closed at 10pm on Thursday with vote-counting now underway to determine who will take the seat.

Early on Friday, officials announced a turnout of 39.7%, slightly higher than recent by-elections in Wellingborough and Kingswood.

Mr Galloway's rival candidate Simon Danczuk, also a former Labour MP, is representing Reform UK.

Mr Danczuk himself 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. He stood as an independent that year and received only 883 votes.

He has accused Mr Galloway of being divisive and said he would be the "MP for Gaza" rather than Rochdale due to his pro-Palestinian campaigning.

George Galloway's team have said they believed he will win the seat 'comfortably'.
George Galloway's team have said they believed he will win the seat 'comfortably'. Picture: Alamy

Green party candidate Guy Otten has also been entangled in controversy over the campaign after his party withdrew support for him over comments he made on Twitter.

In the same vein as Mr Ali, Mr Otten will also appear as a Green candidate but would sit independently if elected.

Richard Tice, leader of the Reform Party, speaking at the election count, said the poll in Rochdale had "not been a free and fair election", as he declared Galloway as the winner.

"Unfortunately the behaviour of certain candidates and supporters means this has fallen well below our tradition.

"What we witnessed here is deeply disturbing. Our candidate and campaign team have been subjected to death threats, vile racist abuse, been refused entry to hustings in council buildings and had to be re-located for their own safety.

"They have suffered daily intimidation and slurs."

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