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Next election will be about Muslims, says Galloway

George Galloway made his comments after being sworn in as the new MP for Rochdale
George Galloway made his comments after being sworn in as the new MP for Rochdale on Monday - Stefan Rousseau/PA

The next election will be about Muslims, George Galloway said as he was sworn into the Commons as the new MP for Rochdale.

The controversial politician said it was “clear” to him that Rishi Sunak had identified “Muslims and Gaza” as the “wedge issue” that he intended to use as his “only hope of re-election”.

He vowed to target Angela Rayner’s Ashton-under-Lyne seat, claiming to have “at least 15,000 supporters” in the Greater Manchester constituency – enough to overturn the deputy Labour leader’s majority of about 4,000.

At an impromptu press conference after his swearing-in ceremony, he also urged Jeremy Corbyn to launch and lead an alliance of “socialist, progressive and anti-war organisations”.

George Galloway's wife Putri Gayatri Pertiwi has a fingernail painted with the Palestinian flag as her husband speaks outside the Palace of Westminster yesterday
George Galloway's wife Putri Gayatri Pertiwi has a fingernail painted with the Palestinian flag as her husband speaks outside the Palace of Westminster yesterday - Carl Court/Getty Images

Mr Galloway, the leader of the Workers Party of Britain and a former Labour MP, stormed to victory in the Rochdale by-election last week, having courted the town’s substantial Muslim vote on a pro-Palestinian ticket.

On Monday, he said the next election “will be about Muslims” and “the taking away of civil liberties in this country”.

“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.

“They want to force [Keir] 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.

“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.”

The MP claimed to be “speaking for a very large number of people in Britain”, and said voters in many constituencies supported his views.

He said this would be become clear to Sir Keir Starmer, adding: “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 [will] support, and that will vitally affect the election of the Labour deputy.”

Ms Rayner won a majority of 4,263 in her Ashton-under-Lyne seat in 2019, down significantly on 11,295 in 2017.

George Galloway is sworn in as the new MP for Rochdale
George Galloway is sworn in as the new MP for Rochdale - UK Parliament

Mr Galloway said he did not expect Mr Corbyn, the former Labour leader who now sits as an independent MP, to join his party, but said he had “called on him to launch and lead an alliance, a coalition of socialist, progressive and anti-war organisations”.

Mr Corbyn was expected to introduce the new Rochdale MP to the chamber on Monday afternoon.

It was also initially thought that David Davis, a former Tory Cabinet minister, would take one of the spots. But he had a change of heart when Chris Williamson, Mr Galloway’s deputy, refused to condemn the Oct 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.

Instead, Neale Hanvey, the Alba MP, and Sir Peter Bottomley, the Father of the House, carried out the introduction.

Bim Afolami, the Treasury minister, told GB News: “The fact that people didn’t seem to want to do it is an indication of the standing with which he’s held in the House of Commons, which is not very high. But we’re in this position really because of the weakness of the Labour leader, and frankly the fact that Labour still hasn’t changed.”

Mr Galloway’s return to the Commons is likely to reignite tensions in the chamber, with the Board of Deputies of British Jews calling for him to be “shunned as a pariah by all parliamentarians”.

It comes just two weeks after the House descended into chaos when Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, broke with convention and selected a Labour amendment to the SNP’s opposition day motion on an immediate truce in Gaza.

Senior backbenchers accused him of making the decision so Sir Keir could avoid the prospect of an embarrassing Labour rebellion. Sir Lindsay rejected the accusations and insisted he had been motivated by the fact that MPs were facing threats to their safety.