Polling Station at Old School

George Galloway wins landslide victory in Rochdale by-election

Veteran political agitator George Galloway has won the Rochdale by-election in a landslide victory following a chaotic campaign. 

The left-wing firebrand, who leads the Workers Party of Britain, won 12,335 votes, just under 40 per cent of the vote.

He beat his closest rival, runner-up David Tully, by a 5,697 majority. Tully was an independent candidate who only decided to run the day before nominations closed.

The by-election was to decide the replacement for the veteran Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd, who died in January.

Taking aim at his former party in his victory speech — Galloway is an ex-Labour MP, the Workers Party of Britain leader declared: “Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza. 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.”

He also told the Labour leader his problems “just got 100 times worse than they were before today”.

Galloway won 12,335 votes, 39.7 per cent of the total, in a larger victory than had been anticipated.

The turnout was 39.7 per cent. 

Galloway concentrated his campaign on the situation in Gaza in an attempt to win backing from Rochdale’s large Muslim voters, who make up just under a third of the population.

Labour, defending a near-10,000-vote majority, had expected a straightforward contest to replace the sitting MP, Tony Lloyd, who died on 17 January from leukaemia.

However, the party withdrew support for its candidate, Azhar Ali, after a recording emerged in which he claimed Israel was complicit in the terrorist attacks of October 7.

A Labour spokesperson said: “We deeply regret that the Labour party was 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 communities 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 communities and public life”.

Speaking this morning, leading polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice told the BBC Breakfast programme that Labour’s vote in Rochdale “literally collapsed” as it suffered the “biggest drop” in support at a by-election since the Second World War. 

Sir John told BBC Breakfast: “The truth is Labour’s vote was going to go down [given they disowned their candidate], but Labour’s vote literally collapsed.

“This is the biggest drop in Labour support in a post-war by-election and it does mean that certainly Labour MPs who are representing constituencies with large Muslim populations who have been told that they may face candidates standing on a pro-Palestinian platform that they will be looking to Sir Keir perhaps to toughen his stance on Israel in order to try to head that off, even if I think it is probably undoubtedly the case it is unlikely that anybody else has the ability to use this issue, to exploit this issue in the way that Mr Galloway is uniquely able to do.”

He added: “So far as [prime minister Rishi] Sunak is concerned, well frankly, here is another poor Conservative performance.

“Conservative vote down by 19 points. It is the biggest drop in the Conservative vote in a Labour-held seat in a by-election this parliament.”

The Conservatives finished in third place with 3,731 votes, 12 per cent of the vote.

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