George Galloway wins Rochdale by-election as ex-Labour candidate finishes fourth

George Galloway's return to the Commons is a stunning comeback for one of Britain's most controversial politicians
George Galloway's return to the Commons is a stunning comeback for one of Britain's most controversial politicians - REUTERS

George Galloway sealed a shock return to front line British politics on Thursday night as he stormed to victory in the Rochdale by-election.

The Workers Party leader claimed his fourth Parliamentary seat and will return to Westminster after almost a decade in the wilderness.

He secured a comfortable 5,697 majority with Azhar Ali, the candidate who Labour ditched over an anti-Semitism row, pushed into fourth place.

It marked a stunning comeback for one of Britain’s most controversial politicians, who took advantage of Labour being forced to pull out of the contest.

Mr Galloway won a controversial and chaotic election
Mr Galloway won a controversial and chaotic election - GETTY IMAGES

Speaking moments after his victory, he said: “Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza. You will pay a high price for the role you have played in enabling, encouraging and covering for the catastrophe presently going on in occupied Palestine.

“Keir Starmer’s problems just got 100 times more serious than they were before today. This is going to spark a movement, a landslide, a shifting of the tectonic plates in scores of Parliamentary constituencies.

“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.”

Mr Galloway’s victory speech was temporarily interrupted by an eco-protester, who accused him of being a denier of climate change.


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Her protest was swiftly drowned out by the Left-wing politician’s supporters chanting “Galloway! Galloway!” until she was dragged off by security.

Another activist tried to throw orange confetti over him – the colour closely associated with Just Stop Oil – but they missed their target.

Relentless campaign on war in Gaza

Mr Galloway, 69, ran a campaign relentlessly focussed on the war in Gaza as he openly courted Rochdale’s substantial Muslim vote.

His leaflets were festooned with the Palestinian flag and rebranded him as “Gaza George” and aggressively attacked Labour over its stance.

One cast the by-election as a choice between “George who will fight for Palestine and the people of Rochdale – and Keir Starmer who will fight for Israel”.

The return of Mr Galloway to the Commons will provide another headache for Sir Keir, who is already facing a threat from the Left of his party over Gaza.

It is the third time he has taken on Labour, the party with which he started his political career, and won by campaigning on Middle Eastern issues.

He took full advantage of Labour being forced to withdraw its support for Mr Ali after it emerged that he had repeated a conspiracy theory about Israel.

George Galloway kisses his wife, Putri Gayatri Pertiwi
George Galloway kisses his wife, Putri Gayatri Pertiwi - REUTERS

Mr Ali had up until that point been the overwhelming favourite to hold onto the seat for Labour, succeeding Sir Tony Lloyd who died of leukaemia.

He appeared on the ballot paper as a Labour candidate because it was too late to reprint the slips, but that did not spare him falling to a crushing defeat.

In the end he was pushed into fourth place, securing just 2,402 votes.

Local businessman beats major parties

David Tully, a businessman who ran as an independent and campaigned on largely local issues, came second with 6,638 votes.

His performance meant the Rochdale by-election was the first time in modern political history that no major party had featured in the top two.

The Conservatives, whose candidate Paul Ellison spent part of the campaign on holiday, came in third with 3,731 votes.

Reform UK, whose candidate Simon Danczuk was a former Labour MP for Rochdale, endured a disappointing night and secured just 1,968 votes.

Richard Tice, its leader, said the result did not matter though as his party’s candidate and campaigners had been subjected to “death threats” and “vile racist abuse”.

He said the contest had not been “free and fair” and questioned a sharp rise in the number of postal votes, up from 14,000 at the last general election to 23,000.