Rishi Sunak latest news: British democracy being targeted by extremists, says PM

Rishi Sunak has warned that extremists are trying to tear Britain apart as he called for the country to come together and “beat this poison”.

In a surprise speech on the steps of Downing Street, the Prime Minister said that “democracy itself is a target” and called out the “shocking increase” in extremism.

Mr Sunak urged the police to more tightly handle pro-Palestinian protests and issued a personal message to the marchers to reject radicals hijacking the demonstration.

The Prime Minister’s speech addressed the fallout from Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel in Britain and came on the day that George Galloway won the by-election in Rochdale.

Mr Sunak said: “The time has now come for us all to stand together to combat the forces of division and beat this poison.

“We must face down the extremists who would tear us apart. There must be leadership, not pandering or appeasement.

“When they tell their lies, we will tell the truth. When they try and sap our confidence, we will redouble our efforts.

“And when they try and make us doubt each other we will dig deeper for that extra ounce of compassion and empathy that they want us to believe doesn’t exist, but that I know does.”

Recap on a dramatic day in Westminster and Rochdale below, and join the conversation in the comments here

06:42 PM GMT

That’s all for this evening...

Thank you for joining The Telegraph’s politics team on another dramatic day in Rochdale, Westminster and beyond as George Galloway’s by-election triumph was followed by Rishi Sunak warning against the “posion” of extremism and pleading for unity in a surprise speech outside Downing Street.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak gave an unannounced press conference outside Downing Street following the Rochdale by-election result - Aaron Chown/PA

My colleague Jack Maidment will be back early on Monday to guide you through another busy week, not least the Spring Budget delivered by Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday. Until then, have a very pleasant weekend.

06:38 PM GMT

Sir Keir Starmer backs Sunak’s message of unity

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said Rishi Sunak was “right to advocate unity and to condemn the unacceptable and intimidatory behaviour that we have seen recently”.

“It is an important task of leadership to defend our values and the common bonds that hold us together,” he said.

“Citizens have a right to go about their business without intimidation and elected representatives should be able to do their jobs and cast their votes without fear or favour.

“This is something agreed across the parties and which we should all defend.”

06:35 PM GMT

Radio 4 controller Mohit Bakaya: ‘People say we’re woke – the truth is we’re a mirror for Britain’

It feels like a particularly appropriate time to be sitting down with Mohit Bakaya, Radio 4’s controller, on the day it is announced that Today programme anchor Martha Kearney is leaving the show, writes Peter Stanford.

The departure of BBC veteran Kearney, one of the most familiar and loved voices on his station, is adding to a growing sense of unease around not only its flagship morning news show, which has seen a 9 per cent year-on-year drop in numbers tuning in, but also about Radio 4 itself which has been haemorrhaging listeners of late.

There has been a 10 per cent drop overall in the past 12 months on Bakaya’s watch, creating a perception that it has lost its way.

And in a sign of the times, and the problems posed by the BBC’s impartiality rules, after our meeting an internal BBC review found another Today presenter, Justin Webb, had broken impartiality rules by sharing his own opinion that trans women are “in other words males” on air in an item last August. The dividing lines and traps of the culture wars are just one of the challenges that the controller is trying to navigate.

Full story: BBC station’s boss says a varied output is needed more than ever

06:15 PM GMT

Liberal Democrat: Public will take ‘no lessons’ from Sunak

Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the public “will take no lessons from a Prime Minister and Conservative party who have sowed the seeds of division for years”.

“This is the same Prime Minister who made Suella Braverman his Home Secretary and Lee Anderson his party’s deputy chairman,” Sir Ed said.

“If the Prime Minister is serious about bringing people together, he would call a general election now, so that the British public can decide the future of our country.”

06:14 PM GMT

Sir Sajid Javid hails ‘powerful’ Sunak speech

06:12 PM GMT

Richard Tice accuses Rishi Sunak of ‘weak, feeble’ response

The leader of the Reform party said:

06:11 PM GMT

Sky News journalist drowned out by ‘free Palestine’ chants

Sam Coates, the deputy political editor of Sky News, was drowned out by supporters of George Galloway chanting “free, free Palestine” as he attempted to report from Mr Galloway’s campaign headquarters.

06:09 PM GMT

Galloway: I’m not responsible for who endorses me

George Galloway has defended having the backing of Nick Griffin, the former leader of the BNP, insisting that he is “not responsible for whoever declares that they’re endorsing me”, Genevieve Holl-Allen writes.

The Prime Minister cited Mr Griffin’s support of the new Rochdale MP in a speech outside Downing Street about rising extremism in the UK.

Responding to the allegation, Mr Galloway told Channel 5: “I’m not responsible for whoever declares that they’re endorsing me. I have never met Mr Nick Griffin and have no wish to.”

Mr Sunak also claimed the Workers Party of Britain politician “glorifies Hezbollah,” to which Mr Galloway replied:“I don’t know what the glorifying of Hezbollah is about. But perhaps he can tell me on Wednesday, at Prime Minister’s questions, if he’s got the guts.”

Asked what his message to Sir Keir Starmer was, Mr Galloway told Sky News: “The skids are under you in scores of Labour seats up and down the country because you’ve lost the trust, you’ve lost the confidence, of millions of your traditional loyal voters.”

He went on to refer to Mr Sunak’s broadcast as a “party political statement... I don’t care about Rishi Sunak’s attitude... You’re just going to have to just suck it up, I won the election.”

06:05 PM GMT

Galloway: I’m as much against extremism as anyone else

George Galloway has insisted that he is “as much against extremism and violence as anyone else,” after Rishi Sunak called the result of the Rochdale by-election “horrifying” in his speech, writes Genevieve Holl-Allen, The Telegraph’s Political Reporter.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s speech, the new MP for the Greater Manchester town told Channel 5 News: “I abhor extremism just as much as he does.”

“That’s why I’m wearing a hat, because I was savagely assaulted whilst an MP in 2014 in a politically motivated assault, which hospitalised me and saw the assailant jailed for 20 months. So I’m as much against extremism and violence as anyone else. I’m probably a little more so, given my personal experience.”

He added that he “agreed” with Mr Sunak “when he said that that change can only come through the democratic process”.

“The returning officer, a man of unimpeachable integrity one assumes, declared it last night as a free and fair election.”

06:01 PM GMT

Analysis: A sincere plea for unity from Sunak

Rishi Sunak has just issued a sincere plea for unity to beat the “poison” of Islamist and far-Right extremism in the wake of the Rochdale by-election.

An unexpected intervention on the part of Downing Street spoke to the scale of division in society and the current polarised nature of the political debate, with examples cited early on of how that has translated to real-world discrimination.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

While some will question why Mr Sunak did not give such a speech earlier, as pro-Palestinian marches and counter-protests have been taking place for months, the context of these past few weeks and the ballot yesterday made his words particularly potent.

It was obvious how much the Prime Minister’s remarks meant to him on a personal level tonight and he will hope the public goes on to heed his warnings.

05:56 PM GMT

Rishi Sunak’s concluding remarks: Let us go forward together, confident in our values and our future

When they tell their lies, we will tell the truth. When they try and sap our confidence, we will redouble our efforts. And when they try and make us doubt each other, we will dig deeper for that extra ounce of compassion and empathy that they want us to believe doesn’t exist, but that I know does.

If we can do that, we can build on our great achievement in building today’s Britain, a country of kind, decent, tolerant people.

We can make this a country in which we all feel a renewed sense of pride.

This is our home. So let us go forward together, confident in our values and our future.

05:55 PM GMT

Rishi Sunak speech: There must be leadership, not appeasement

Addressing directly those who continue to attend pro-Palestinian marches, Rishi Sunak said “don’t let the extremists hijack your marches”.

“You have a chance in the coming weeks to show that you can protest decently, peacefully and with empathy for your fellow citizens.

“Let us prove these extremists wrong and show them that, even when we disagree, we will never be disunited from our common values of decency and respect. I love this country. My family and I owe it so much.”

He added: “The time has now come for us all to stand together to combat the forces of division and beat this poison. We must face down the extremists who would tear us apart. There must be leadership, not pandering or appeasement.”

05:54 PM GMT

Britain cannot ‘descend into polarised camps’, warns Sunak

Rishi Sunak said the Government would implement “a new robust framework” later this month.

“We will redouble our support for the Prevent programme to stop young minds being poisoned by extremism. We will demand that universities stop extremist activity on campus,” Mr Sunak added.

“We will also act to prevent people entering this country whose aim is to undermine it values. The Home Secretary has instructed that if those here on visas choose to spew hate on protests or seek to intimidate people, we will remove their right to be here.

“And our Britain must not be a country in which we descend into polarised camps with some communities living parallel lives. It is not enough to live side-by-side, we must live together, united by shared values and a shared commitment to this country.”

05:53 PM GMT

Rishi Sunak: The police have a tough job, but we must draw a line

Turning to the police response to pro-Palestinian protests in the wake of the Oct 7 attacks and the Israel-Hamas conflict, Mr Sunak said: “I respect that the police have a tough job in policing the protests we have seen and that they are operationally independent. But we must draw a line.

“Yes, you can march and protest with passion, you can demand the protection of civilian life, but no, you cannot call for violent jihad. There is no ‘context’ in which it can be acceptable to beam antisemitic tropes onto Big Ben in the middle of a vote on Israel/Gaza. And there’s no cause you can use to justify the support of proscribed terrorist groups, such as Hamas.

“Yes, you can freely criticise the actions of this government, or indeed any government: that is a fundamental democratic right. But no, you cannot use that as an excuse to call for the eradication of a state or any kind of hatred or anti-Semitism.”

05:52 PM GMT

Sunak: I am enormously proud of the good Britain has done

Rishi Sunak said no country was perfect but he was “enormously proud of the good that our country has done”.

“When these groups tell children that they cannot - and will not succeed - because of who they are, when they tell children that the system is rigged against them or that Britain is a racist country, this is not only a lie.

“But a cynical attempt to crush young dreams, and turn impressionistic minds against their own society.”

Mr Sunak noted he made his speech as Britain’s first non-white Prime Minister “to tell people of all races, all faiths and all backgrounds, it is not the colour of your skin, the God you believe in or where you were born, that will determine your succes, but just your own hard work and endeavour”.

“We must be prepared to stand up for our shared values in all circumstances, no matter how difficult.”

05:50 PM GMT

Sunak: Far-Right and Islamists spreading the poison of extremism

Rishi Sunak said Islamist extremism and the far-Right are “equally desperate to pretend that their violence is somehow justified, when actually these groups are two sides of the same extremist coin”.

“Neither group accept that change in our country can only come through the democratic process,” he told the nation in an address outside 10 Downing Street.

“Both loathe the pluralist, modern country we are. Both want to set Briton against Briton, to weaponise the evils of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred for their own ends.”

He added: “Islamist extremists and far-Right groups are spreading a poison, that poison is extremism. It aims to drain us of our confidence in ourselves as a people, and in our shared future.

“They want us to doubt ourselves, to doubt each other, to doubt our country’s history and its achievements. They want us to accept a moral equivalence between Britain and some of the most despicable regimes in the world.

“They want us to believe that our country, and the West more generally, is solely responsible for the world’s ills and that we, along with our allies, are the problem.”

05:49 PM GMT

Forces at home trying to ‘tear us apart’, warns Prime Minister

Rishi Sunak warned there were “forces here at home trying to tear us apart”:

Since October 7th there have been those trying to take advantage of the very human angst that we all feel about the terrible suffering that war brings to the innocent, to women and children to advance a divisive, hateful ideological agenda.

On too many occasions recently, our streets have been hijacked by small groups who are hostile to our values and have no respect for our democratic traditions.

Membership of our society is contingent on some simple things, that you abide by the rule of law, and that change can only come through the peaceful, democratic process.

Threats of violence or intimidation are alien to our way of doing things: they must be resisted at all times. Nearly everyone in Britain supports these basic values but there are small and vocal hostile groups who do not.

05:48 PM GMT

Sunak: This situation has gone on long enough

Rishi Sunak said he was addressing the nation from Downing Street “because this situation has gone on long enough, and demands a response not just from government, but from all of us”.

“Britain today is a patriotic, liberal, democratic society with a proud past and a bright future.  We are a reasonable country and a decent people. Our story is one of progress, of great achievements and enduring values. Immigrants who have come here have integrated and contributed. They have helped write the latest chapter in our island story.

“They have done this without being required to give up their identity. You can be a practising Hindu and a proud Briton as I am. Or a devout Muslim and a patriotic citizen as so many are. Or a committed Jewish person and the heart of your local community and all underpinned by the tolerance of our established, Christian church.

“We are a country where we love our neighbours and we are building Britain together. But I fear that our great achievement in building the world’s most successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy is being deliberately undermined.”

05:47 PM GMT

Rishi Sunak: Now our democracy itself is a target

Rishi Sunak said recent months have seen “a shocking increase in extremist disruption and criminality”.

“What started as protests on our streets, has descended into intimidation, threats, and planned acts of violence. Jewish children fearful to wear their school uniform lest it reveal their identity. Muslim women abused in the street for the actions of a terrorist group they have no connection with.

“Now our democracy itself is a target. Council meetings and local events have been stormed. MPs do not feel safe in their homes. Longstanding Parliamentary conventions have been upended because of safety concerns.

“And it is beyond horrifying that last night the Rochdale by election returned a candidate who dismisses the horror of what happened on Oct 7, who glorifies Hezbollah and is endorsed by Nick Griffin, the racist former leader of the BNP.”

05:45 PM GMT

George Galloway has accused Rishi Sunak of a “tawdry attempt to dimish” his election victory

George Galloway has accused Rishi Sunak of a “tawdry attempt to dimish” his election victory with a speech outside Number 10 the day after Mr Galloway won in Rochdale, writes Genevieve Holl-Allen.

The new MP for the Workers Party of Britain told Channel 5 ahead of the Prime Minister’s speech, expected to address extremism in the UK: “I really don’t know what he’s talking about.

“Beyond that, it’s a tawdry attempt to diminish, to degrade our great election victory.”

He added: “We are the antidote to extremism. We are the people who tell everyone that voting can change things, that a peaceful democratic approach is the way to go.

“If you’re constantly smearing people when they’re involved in the democratic process, well, you risk driving people out of that process altogether.”

05:34 PM GMT

Sunak speech expected at 5.45pm

We will be bringing you all the latest on this live blog, and you can watch live at the top.

05:31 PM GMT

Paul Waugh, who lost out to Azhar Ali for Rochdale’s Labour candidacy, speaks out

05:19 PM GMT

‘Enough is enough’

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA) is announced it will offer free legal representation to MPs who have been subject to anti-Semitic threats or intimidation, writes Genevieve Holl-Allen, The Telegraph’s Political Reporter.

The charity said today that it would offer the service in the wake of recent growing threats to MPs.

In a statement on social media, the organisation said: “Our parliamentary procedures have been shamefully altered to accommodate these threats as our MPs face intimidation and the necessity of private security.”

“It has even gotten to the point where the Prime Minister has had to release a statement expressing his concern.

It added: “Enough is enough. We are offering free legal representation to MPs who have been subjected to anti-Semitic threats or intimidation including obtaining court orders to unmask the authors of anonymous comments made online.”

CAA said it can be contacted in confidence by email should any MP require their services.

05:08 PM GMT

Sunak speech coming up

Rishi Sunak is to give a surprise speech outside Downing Street just after 5.30pm this evening about defending democracy.

It comes after George Galloway won a by-election in Rochdale that Mr Sunak told reporters was “one of the most divisive” in recent times.

The address is unexpected and the press pack were only told he would be delivering remarks outside No10 today.

04:50 PM GMT

Gove on Johnson: I’d like to see the whole Conservative family come together

04:39 PM GMT

Rishi Sunak to address nation outside Downing Street at 5.30pm

Rishi Sunak will address the nation at 5.30pm to give a speech about defending democracy, writes Ben Riley-Smith, The Telegraph’s Political Editor.

04:33 PM GMT

Brexit row over cost of ‘lavish’ pensions paid to British MEPs

EU taxpayers “should not be on the hook” for “lavish” pensions paid to British former MEPs, a German politician has said.

A supplementary pension scheme for MEPs, which pays out up to €7,000 (£6,000) monthly on top of their lucrative final salary payments, has a deficit of more than €310m and could become bankrupt as early as 2025.

An oral amendment in the Budgetary Control Committee earlier this week demanded that every legal option to avoid further taxpayer bailouts of the struggling supplementary pension fund is explored.

Author of the amendment, Daniel Freund, a German Green MEP, said: “For the British members in particular, I don’t think that EU taxpayers should bail out the lavish additional pensions.

“All the UK MEPs have UK pensions, from their time in the parliament, and that now EU taxpayers should be on the hook when the UK has obviously left the union, that really should happen even less.”

Madeleine Ross, our Money Reporter, has the full story here

04:16 PM GMT

We will make gains in Scotland at next election, insists Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak has insisted he is confident the Conservatives will make gains in Scotland at the next general election despite a Survation poll predicting the Tories will just win 15 per cent of the vote north of the border.

Asked about the poll by reporters in Scotland, Mr Sunak said: “That’s not reflective of what we’re hearing on the ground, the recent success that we’re having in council by-elections...

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak with Alister Jack, the Scotland Secretary, and Claire Coutinho, the Energy Secretary, during a visit to Baker Hughes in Montrose - Michal Wachucik

“I think come the election - because that’s ultimately the only one that matters - I think we expect to gain when it comes to Scotland and that’s because our message resonates.”

The Prime Minister added: “Inflation has been halved, wages are rising and we’re cutting people’s taxes, cutting taxes for small businesses.

“The contrast with the SNP and Labour is that they will just take us back to square one.”

03:58 PM GMT

David Frost: Tories have to be honest about why Britain is in this mess

What can we expect from next week’s Budget? asks Lord Frost.

We are already into the usual game. Just as the Romans took decisions by examining the entrails of animals, so the Treasury must await the pronunciamentos of its own oracle, in the form of the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Possible Budget measures are floated to test reactions. But through all the resultant media noise, one detects that the mood seems to have shifted: the economy is worse than we thought, there isn’t much room for manoeuvre, don’t get your hopes up.

Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt
What is the real reason why Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt's autumn tax cuts didn't 'work'? - Paul Ellis/Pool via Reuters

Let’s see on Wednesday. The Prime Minister and Chancellor face two problems. The first is that they are presiding over the highest levels of tax and spend for decades, and many of their already unenthusiastic supporters are very unhappy about that.

No 10 is said to be perplexed by the failure of November’s national insurance “cuts” (actually, a partial reversal of planned increases) to have any impact on opinion poll ratings. One can imagine them now saying “they wanted tax cuts, we gave them tax cuts, nothing happened – and here they are still calling for more. Maybe tax cuts aren’t the answer after all.”

David Frost: Gimmicks like scrapping non-dom status won’t sway any voters

03:48 PM GMT

Tory accused of ‘fanning racism’ over traveller site opposition says he won’t be silenced

A Conservative MP has vowed that he “will not be silenced” after a charity accused him of  “fanning the flames of racism” after he voiced opposition to a new traveller camp in his constituency.

Sir Conor Burns, the Bournemouth West MP, said there had been “politically motivated” attempts to stop him from speaking out on plans for a disused car park in Branksome, Dorset, after he raised concerns.

Sir Conor, a former minister under Boris Johnson who has represented Bournemouth West since 2010, posted a video on social media in which he said proposals to accommodate “the so-called settled traveller community” were inappropriate “in the middle of this residential area”.

Sir Conor Burns
Sir Conor Burns

Campaigners from the Traveller Movement, a charity representing the Romani, Roma and Irish traveller community, accused the MP of “inciting discrimination” and suggested his comments had “fanned the flames of racism”.

Hitting back at the criticism, Sir Conor said: “I will fully cooperate with any investigation into anything I have said. I will not, however, be silenced from raising legitimate issues on behalf of my constituents or opposing any planning proposals that I judge not in their interests, especially in the face of politically motivated attempts to mute the voice of a local MP.”

Alex Barton has the full story here

03:34 PM GMT

Tom Harris: Galloway’s landslide means all bets are off for the next election

He’s back. Like the foe in one of those teen horror franchises of the ’80s, George Galloway simply refuses to disappear forever, writes Tom Harris.

The former MP for Glasgow Kelvin, Bethnal Green and Bow and Bradford West can now add MP for Rochdale to his long CV, and few will bet on his being ousted from his latest perch at this year’s general election.

George Galloway
George Galloway posing outside his campaign headquarters in Rochdale - Oli Scarff

Galloway is a unique political character, a one-off, and for that at least, the rest of us can be truly thankful.

There are so many extraordinary aspects of last night’s by-election, and Galloway’s victory by a 6000-vote margin of victory on behalf of the Workers’ Party is only one of them, and not even the most remarkable.

Tom Harris: Labour must decide whether to ignore or confront George Galloway

03:20 PM GMT

Thanks for caring about me, says Lee Anderson as he shows off his mail bag

Lee Anderson, now the independent MP for Ashfield after he was stripped of the Tory whip, posed with a full mail bag as he thanked those who had got in touch with him this week.

“Look here, this is my mail bag. This is fan mail... So just a massive, massive thanks to everyone who’s took the time to write in, I’ve had 4,000 emails now and a sack full of mail. So thanks for caring about me.”

03:12 PM GMT

Sunak: How are the SNP choosing to spend your cash?

Asked how to challenge Humza Yousaf’s “misleading narrative” about Scotland receiving less funding, Rishi Sunak noted the SNP receives £41bn in a record block grant, with the last two fiscal events providing an extra £2.5bn.

“No one can say there’s not enough funding going in, but actually the question is how are the SNP choosing to use it?”

Rishi Sunak said the Government would continue “constructively working with the Scottish Government where we can... and we’ve done that to deliver two freeports”.

03:06 PM GMT

Rishi Sunak: The SNP have made Scotland the high tax capital of the UK

Rishi Sunak is taking part in a question-and-answer question with Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

Asked by David from Aberdeen what he would do to reduce taxes for hard-working families, Mr Sunak replied: “We have been talking about taxation today and that’s because there is now a very clear contrast between what the SNP Government is doing here in Scotland and what the UK Government is doing throughout the UK.

“The SNP have made Scotland the high tax capital of the UK... In contrast, what we’re doing is delivering one of the biggest tax cuts for workers that we’ve seen in recent times, everyone in work is receiving a tax cut worth on average around £450, because of the cuts we’ve made to National Insurance. We have chosen to cut a UK-wide tax because we’re a party of the union and that’s been putting more money into people’s bank accounts since the start of the year.”

03:03 PM GMT

‘Let’s send the nationalists back home to think again’

Rishi Sunak insisted he would “have no truck with the nationalist desire to set Scot against Scot and Scotland against the English”.

Concluding his Scottish Conservatives conference speech, the Prime Minister declared: “I know we are stronger together. Our country is an enormous source of good in the world. We have led the world in supporting Ukraine. Our alliance with Australia and the United States will keep the peace in the Pacific for decades to come.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak urged Scottish Tory conference delegates to reject the SNP's "desire to set Scot against Scot" - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

“And six million children across Africa are receiving their first ever malaria vaccine thanks to British funding and research.

“So in conclusion let’s stand up for our country, our United Kingdom. Let’s give it the brighter future that it deserves, and let’s send the nationalists back home to think again.”

03:01 PM GMT

Sunak likens the SNP to Glasgow Willy Wonka Experience

Rishi Sunak said children in Scotland were “being failed” as their schools fell down international league tables as he accused the SNP of an “all-consuming” obsession “with tearing Scotland out of our United Kingdom”.

“They’re so obsessed with difference for difference’s sake that when we banned XL Bullies, they said no, we’ll go our own way. I mean, this political posturing has tragic consequences and it just shows you that they put division above even the safety of our streets.

“Astonishingly, after even 16 different papers on independence they still can’t answer the basic questions. What’s the currency going to be, what happens to pensions, what happens to trade? It’s their obsession with independence that is holding Scotland back.

“I recently saw the news of an experience in Glasgow leaving customers unhappy, demanding refunds, and I thought the parallels with the SNP are anything but wonky.”

02:58 PM GMT

Rishi Sunak: Every day the SNP remains in power is a wasted day

Rishi Sunak said he knew “how tough the last couple of years have been for everyone”, citing the Covid pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and soaring energy bills.

In his speech at the Scottish Conservative conference, he added: “Now with inflation halved our economic policy can change gears. We’ve already provided a UK-wide £9bn tax cut for workers across the country and we’ve cut taxes for businesses, for business investment to the tune of £11bn.

“So the choice before the country now is a clear one. Stick to our plan, that is starting to deliver the change that people want to see, or go back to square one with Labour. But here in Scotland, the choice is even more stark. If Labour would take the UK back to square one, the SNP would take Scotland back literally 300 years.

“Now look, I know the SNP haven’t had their troubles to seek over the last year, but nobody should be in any doubt about the continuing threat they pose to Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. If you want to see better schools, more economic growth, safer streets and a Government that works for the whole of Scotland, then every day that the SNP remain in power is a wasted day.”

02:55 PM GMT

Sunak: We’re standing up to Labour and SNP ‘madness’ on energy

Rishi Sunak told the Scottish Conservative conference a vote for any other party would “shut down” the oil and gas industry.

“What the nationalists in hock to their green allies can’t see is if you destroy the industry that we have here now, you will stop Aberdeen being home to the industries of the future.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak railed against both Labour and the SNP in his Scottish Conservative conference speech - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

“And as for Labour, it says so much about them that they don’t want to ban all oil and gas, they just want to ban British oil and gas, with their ban on North Sea exploration. It shows so clearly that their values are not our country’s values, that they put virtue-signalling ahead of our nation’s energy security.

“And it also shows that for all their splits on other issues, Starmer and Sarwar are completely united in wanting to shut this industry down. So Labour and the SNP would mean fewer jobs both here and in the North East. And Douglas, thank you to you and your team at Holyrood for standing up to this madness.”

02:52 PM GMT

‘The energy capital of the UK... and the nightlife capital too’

Rishi Sunak said it was “great to be here in Scotland, in Aberdeen, the energy capital of the UK, and as Michael Gove assures me, the nightlife capital too”.

Mr Gove, the Housing Secretary, stunned revellers at an Aberdeen nightclub in 2021 by “raving” on a dancefloor into the early hours.

The Prime Minister continued: “I’m proud to lead the Conservative and Unionist Party and I’m so proud of how the Scottish Conservatives under Douglas [Ross]’s strong leadership are the one party standing up for the people of Scotland and trying to move Scotland forward.”

Mr Sunak said it was only the Scottish Tories “who stood up to the absurdities of the Scottish nationalist-proposed, Labour-backed gender recognition reforms”, praising Alister Jack, the Scotland Secretary, issuing the section 35 order “that stopped this nonsense in its tracks”.

He went on to say his party was “cutting tax for every worker in Britain” while the SNP were “raising tax on everyone” earning more than £28,000 a year.

02:40 PM GMT

Coming up: Sunak speaks in Scotland

Rishi Sunak is about to address the Scottish Conservative Party conference alongside Alister Jack, the Scotland Secretary.

You will be able to follow the Prime Minister’s speech as it happens on this live blog.

02:33 PM GMT

Sadiq Khan admits LTN is ‘causing huge problems’

Sadiq Khan has admitted that a controversial low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) scheme in London is “causing huge problems” after buses were caught up in hours-long traffic jams.

The scheme, at Streatham Wells, was implemented last year as part of an 18-month trial which Labour-run Lambeth Council says is meant to improve air quality.

Yet the Mayor of London has now spoken out against the LTN, marking the first time he has ever criticised one of the schemes.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London
Mr Khan's comments come after significant opposition to LTN schemes amid huge traffic congestion caused by the schemes - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The Labour mayor said on his Speak to Sadiq LBC radio show on Thursday: “The LTN in Streatham is causing huge problems.

“Yesterday I was in touch with Lambeth council to see what my team can do to resolve the issue. And so we’ve asked the council to look at it urgently in relation to the consequences of a very well-intentioned LTN.

Gareth Corfield, our Transport Correspondent, has the story

02:28 PM GMT

Galloway’s win is a protest against Broken Britain

There isn’t much to recommend university politics, but in most student unions there is at least the option for voters unhappy at the choice of candidates they’ve been presented with to “Re-Open Nominations”, writes Luke Tryl.

You can be sure that many people in Rochdale would have leapt at the chance to do the same in yesterday’s by-election.

In the absence of that choice, George Galloway, elected with 40 per cent of the vote, will return as an MP to represent a fourth different part of the country.

He was followed by Independent candidate David Tully who took 21 per cent. While the Conservative candidate and his (disowned) Labour counterpart took less than 20 per cent between them.

So what does that result mean? And does it mark the “shifting of the tectonic plates” in British politics that Galloway claimed in his victory speech?

Luke Tryl: Why we are not heading for a Gaza election

02:22 PM GMT

General election will take place this year, confirms Rishi Sunak

A general election will take place in 2024, Rishi Sunak has confirmed.

Speaking on a visit to Scotland ahead of his keynote address at the Scottish Tory conference, the Prime Minister took aim at both Labour and the SNP as he gave the most clarity about the time of the next national poll to date.

“There will be an election this year but the important thing is the choice at that election,” he told the BBC.

“The choice at that election is sticking to our plan which is starting to deliver the change that people want to see, and if we stick with it then I can give everyone the peace of mind that there’s a brighter future ahead.

“You can see that most clearly with the economy, we’ve turned a corner, we’re now cutting taxes. What are the SNP doing? Making Scotland the highest-taxed part of the UK. What would Labour do? Take us back to square one with £28 billion of tax rises because they can’t tell you what they’re going to do. And that choice is very clear.”

02:18 PM GMT

Good afternoon

Dominic Penna here, The Telegraph’s Political Correspondent, guiding you through the rest of the day.

02:06 PM GMT

Gove suggests Boris Johnson should return to help Tories win general election

Michael Gove has suggested Boris Johnson should return to the political frontline and campaign to help the Tories win the next general election.

The Housing Secretary said he wanted to see the “whole Conservative family come together” to stop a Labour victory.

Asked if he would like to see the former prime minister come back and campaign for the Tories, Mr Gove told GB News: “The first thing is yes, I absolutely believe [the Tories can win the general election]. I have been involved in campaigns in the past where we started out in the low 20s and we ended up getting 52 per cent of the vote.

“I was one of the people involved in the Brexit campaign. Campaigns can change people’s minds and you can win even when it appears at the start of the campaign you are pretty far behind.

“And talking of that Brexit campaign, of course Boris played a big part in that. Boris is a great campaigner. What I would like to see is the whole Conservative family come together in order to ensure that this country doesn’t face the nightmare of a Keir Starmer premiership.”

02:01 PM GMT

Starmer claims Galloway only won because Labour withdrew

Sir Keir Starmer claimed George Galloway only won the Rochdale by-election because Labour did not properly contest the seat as he apologised to voters.

The Labour leader told broadcasters this afternoon: “Galloway only won because Labour didn’t stand a candidate. I regret that we had to withdraw our candidate and apologise to voters in Rochdale.

“But I took that decision, it was the right decision and when I say I have changed the Labour Party I mean it.

“Obviously we will put a first-class candidate, a unifier, before the voters in Rochdale at the general election.”

Labour had selected Azhar Ali as its candidate for the by-election but Sir Keir withdrew support from him after an anti-Semitism row. Mr Ali was still listed as the Labour candidate because nominations had already closed.

He finished in fourth place with 2,402 votes as Labour lost control of the seat it had held since 2010.

01:47 PM GMT

Car repair shop owner ‘without any political views’ is surprise runner-up in Rochdale

A Rochdale businessman who told voters he didn’t have “any political views” defeated all the main parties in Westminster after campaigning to crack down on “high-speed drivers” and other local issues.

Dave Tully, who owns a vehicle repair shop, was the surprise runner-up in Thursday night’s contest, and secured over 20 per cent of the vote as an independent candidate with more than 6,000 votes.

You can read the full story here.

01:25 PM GMT

Rwanda scheme a ‘worthwhile investment’, insists Sunak

Rishi Sunak insisted the Rwanda scheme is a “worthwhile investment” after the Government’s spending watchdog said it will cost £171,000 per asylum seeker.

The National Audit Office said the scheme will see the Government hand over £20,000 to Rwanda for each illegal migrant sent there, and then a further £151,000 over five years to cover “essential items” including food and medical services.

Asked about the cost of the scheme, the Prime Minister said: “The current situation is unsustainable and unfair. Taxpayers are already forking out millions of pounds a day to house illegal migrants in hotels across the country, that’s not right. That’s why I made stopping the boats one of my priorities.

“I’m pleased that we’ve made progress, last year the numbers were down by a third.”

He continued: “In order to fully resolve this issue we need to have a deterrent. We need to be able to say if you come here illegally, you won’t be able to stay, we can remove you to a safe country.

“That’s why the Rwanda scheme is so important. It’s a worthwhile investment and I’m determined to see it through.”

12:55 PM GMT

Sunak: Rochdale campaign ‘one of the most divisive’ in recent times

Rishi Sunak said the campaign for the Rochdale by-election was “one of the most divisive” in recent times.

The Prime Minister made the comment during a visit to the Baker Hughes energy firm in Montrose, Scotland, which manufactures subsea infrastructure.

He told broadcasters: “It was very concerning to see the reports of intimidation through the by-election, and by all accounts one of the most divisive campaigns that we’ve seen in recent times.

“I’m pleased the Conservative Party was the only party to run a really positive campaign focused on local issues with a great local candidate, Paul Ellison.”

12:53 PM GMT

Sir Sajid Javid: ‘Bigger lessons must be learned’ from Rochdale by-election

Sir Sajid Javid, the former chancellor, said “bigger lessons must be learned” from the Rochdale by-election.

The senior Tory MP said the result had been a “vote for hateful, toxic and divisive politics”.

He tweeted: “An awful by-election outcome for my home town of Rochdale and the country.

“Exceptional circumstances, and a very low turnout. But still a vote for hateful, toxic and divisive politics. Bigger lessons must be learned.”

12:50 PM GMT

Pictured: Rishi Sunak visits energy firm Baker Hughes in Montrose, Scotland

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, is pictured today during a visit to energy firm Baker Hughes in Montrose, Angus, Scotland
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, is pictured today during a visit to energy firm Baker Hughes in Montrose, Angus, Scotland - Michal Wachucik /PA

12:35 PM GMT

Lord Frost: Tories heading for ‘massive defeat’ unless ‘radical change’ made

Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, said the Tories are heading for a “massive defeat” at the next general election unless a “radical change” is made.

The Tory peer made the comment as he responded to a new YouGov poll which put the Conservative Party on 20 per cent of the vote for the second time in a row.

He tweeted: “That’s two YouGov polls in a row putting Conservatives at 20%, with no discernible effect from Labour’s antisemitism row.

“When will Conservatives start believing that the polls say what they say, and that the party is heading for a massive defeat unless there is some radical change soon?”

12:00 PM GMT

Reform UK ‘coming for’ Tories, says Tice

Richard Tice said Reform UK is “coming for” the Conservative Party after it hit a new high of 14 per cent in a YouGov poll.

Reform was just six points behind the Tories on 20 per cent, according to a new survey conducted between Feb 28-29 (see the post below at 11.13).

Mr Tice, the Reform leader, tweeted: “We are coming for you Tories… just 6% behind now on You Gov…..our first ever 14% national poll…..”

11:40 AM GMT

George Galloway claims Labour councillors campaigned for Azhar Ali

George Galloway claimed Labour councillors campaigned for Azhar Ali despite Sir Keir Starmer cutting ties with him after an anti-Semitism row.

Mr Galloway also alleged that some voters had been asked to “swear on the Koran that they would support the Labour candidate”.

He told Times Radio: “The Labour councillors were all campaigning for him in breach of Starmer’s supposed injunction, about which he’s done nothing.

“We’ve sent the Labour Party all the pictures and testimony of people, including - this is a criminal offence I’m about to allege - including councillors bringing a Koran into people’s houses and asking the voters to swear on the Koran that they would support the Labour candidate, something which without doubt could lead to imprisonment.

“So, it’s not really true that they withdrew their candidate but I’ll grant you, of course, it was exceptional circumstances.”

Ellie Reeves, Labour’s deputy campaign coordinator, told Times Radio: “Labour councillors shouldn’t be campaigning for someone that isn’t a Labour candidate. And Azhar Ali wasn’t a Labour candidate. But that’s the first I’m hearing about these allegations on your show this morning.”

She added: “I’m sure that we will look at that. But as I say, I don’t know what these allegations are, what these reports are, what evidence there is for it.”

11:13 AM GMT

Reform UK hits new polling high of 14 per cent

Reform UK has hit its highest ever level of supporting YouGov polls, according to a new survey.

The company’s latest poll, conducted between Feb 28-29, put Reform on 14 per cent of the vote.

That was up by one point when compared to the previous YouGov poll conducted between Feb 20-21.

Labour was on 46 per cent of the vote in the new poll and the Tories were on 20 per cent, both unchanged from the last survey.

10:42 AM GMT

Watch: Confetti thrown at George Galloway during victory speech

10:22 AM GMT

Rochdale by-election takes the wind out of Starmer’s sails

The Rochdale by-election brings to an end a run of six contests in a row in which Labour had gained ground.

Labour won five of those by-elections and narrowly avoided taking control of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

The chart below shows the Labour swing in all of the by-elections since the 2019 general election.

09:55 AM GMT

Board of Deputies labels Galloway win a ‘dark day for the Jewish community’

The Board of Deputies of British Jews labelled George Galloway’s victory in the Rochdale by-election a “dark day for the Jewish community”.

It said he should be treated like a “pariah” by other MPs.

The representative body said in a statement: “George Galloway is a demagogue and conspiracy theorist, who has brought the politics of division and hate to every place he has ever stood for Parliament.

“His election is a dark day for the Jewish community in this country, and for British politics in general. We believe he should be shunned as a pariah by all Parliamentarians.”

09:41 AM GMT

Starmer won’t ‘lose any sleep’ over Rochdale result, says polling expert

A polling expert said they did not expect Sir Keir Starmer to be “losing any sleep” over the Rochdale result.

Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta, also argued against an assumption that Labour would have “waltzed to an easy victory” if it had selected another candidate.

He said: “I don’t think Keir Starmer will be losing any sleep over this result. Indeed, all things considered, I don’t think Labour could have hoped for much from the result.

“I also don’t think we can assume, based on these results, that a different Labour candidate who had been backed throughout the campaign would have just waltzed to an easy victory.

“A narrow Labour victory over Galloway, or even a defeat, with a different candidate, would have been far more humiliating than this one which Labour can effectively just write-off and move on from.”

09:31 AM GMT

Deputy leader of Galloway’s party refuses to condemn Oct 7 terror attacks

Chris Williamson, the deputy leader of George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain, refused to condemn the Oct 7 Hamas terror attacks on Israel.

Asked if he would condemn the attacks, he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “The two main parties have not condemned or indeed called for a ceasefire. They have not condemned the Israeli regime’s activities.

“But look, you can’t expect to live in a situation where people have been oppressed for 75 years and not expect a reaction.”

Mr Williamson said that “in international law oppressed peoples have an absolute right to armed resistance”.

09:19 AM GMT

Galloway will ‘speak truth to power’ in Commons, says ally

Chris Williamson, the deputy leader of George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain, said the latter will “speak truth to power” after his victory in the Rochdale by-election.

Mr Williamson, a former Labour MP who was suspended from Labour in 2019 after saying the party had been “too apologetic” over anti-Semitism, said the win will “send shockwaves through the corridors of power”.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “This is a groundbreaking result, isn’t it, to see the mainstream political parties being trounced in the way in which they have been.”

He added: “George Galloway is probably the best orator in the world. He’s now got a place in the corridors of power in Westminster, where the Government and the official Opposition are effectively facilitating the genocide in Gaza.

“And so he will be able to speak truth to power.”

08:58 AM GMT

Pictured: Sir Keir Starmer in London this morning

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is pictured in London this morning
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is pictured in London this morning - Nigel Howard /Nigel Howard Media

08:51 AM GMT

Labour will not change Gaza stance despite Galloway victory, signals frontbencher

Labour will not toughen up its stance on the Gaza ceasefire issue despite George Galloway’s victory at the Rochdale by-election, one of the party’s frontbenchers has signalled.

Mr Galloway ran on a pro-Palestinian ticket at a time when Sir Keir Starmer remains under intense pressure to take a harder stance on the Israel-Hamas war.

Ellie Reeves, Labour’s deputy national campaign coordinator, was asked if she believed the Gaza issue could cost Labour other seats and she told Sky News: “We’ve set out our position on Gaza and that was adopted by the Commons just the other week.

“We’ve said there should be an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, that the loss of life has been intolerable, there must be no ground offensive in Rafah, aid has to be ramped up into the region, and, importantly, that we need to find a two-state solution.”

Pressed on whether Labour will toughen up its approach, Ms Reeves said: “We’ve set out our position. We’ve called for that immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

A Labour amendment put before the Commons last week called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”, noted the “intolerable loss of Palestinian life” in Gaza and said “Israel cannot be expected to cease fighting if Hamas continues with violence”.

Labour’s amendment was not as strong as the SNP’s motion which called for an “immediate ceasefire” and accused Israel of the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.

08:36 AM GMT

Watch: George Galloway delivers his Rochdale victory speech

08:17 AM GMT

Rochdale felt like ‘first mid-term by-election of a Starmer government’

The Rochdale by-election felt like the “first mid-term by-election of a Starmer government”, a former senior adviser to Sir Tony Blair said.

John McTernan told BBC Radio 4 Today: “This feels like the first mid-term by-election of a Starmer government because in a funny kind of way for the last 18 months the assumption has been that Starmer is going to be the prime minister and all politics is about the Labour Party.

“All of your questions are really how will Labour fund this? How will Labour be change? We have got a caretaker government but all the politics [is about Labour].”

08:02 AM GMT

Labour must take Rochdale loss ‘incredibly seriously’, says ex-Blair adviser

John McTernan, a former senior adviser to Sir Tony Blair, said the Labour Party should take George Galloway’s Rochdale victory and the electoral threat posed by his Workers Party of Britain “incredibly seriously”.

Mr McTernan, who was Sir Tony’s political secretary in No 10, said the Rochdale result could be seen as a partial judgement on Parliament’s handling of the Gaza ceasefire issue.

He told BBC Radio 4 Today: “I think Labour should take this incredibly seriously. There aren’t a hundred George Galloways. There aren’t even three, four, five, six.

“The issue though is this was a judgement in some way on last week’s Parliament, the lack of the ability of the UK Parliament to come to a position that most people in Britain believe about Israel-Gaza, that there should be an immediate ceasefire, humanitarian ceasefire…”

07:43 AM GMT

Momentum: Rochdale defeat was ‘needless and self-inflicted loss for Labour’

Momentum, a left-wing pressure group, described Labour’s Rochdale by-election loss as “self-inflicted”.

The group said Labour’s “failure to stand with Gaza in its hour of need left the door open for George Galloway”.

A Momentum spokesperson said: “This was a needless and self-inflicted loss for Labour. First, [Labour leader Sir Keir] Starmer’s utterly factional selection processes resulted in a candidate who was clearly unfit for office. Then the Labour leadership tried to defend him as one of their own.

“Finally, Keir Starmer’s failure to stand with Gaza in its hour of need left the door open for George Galloway.

“To avoid any more damaging repeats, Starmer should end the factional abuse of Labour’s selection processes and stand up for an immediate, permanent ceasefire in Gaza.”

07:29 AM GMT

No sign of ‘electoral gloom’ hanging over Tories lifting, says Sir John Curtice

The “electoral gloom” hanging over the Conservative Party shows no sign of lifting despite Labour woes, Professor Sir John Curtice said.

The polling expert said it was a “unique contest” in Rochdale but he believed there were still two things to take away from it.

He told BBC Breakfast: “One is that there is no sign here of the electoral gloom that hangs over the Conservative Party is in any way dissipated by Sir Keir Starmer’s difficulties.

“And two, that although the Labour Party is well-insulated against a challenge in Muslim constituencies… because most of these seats that Labour represents have very large Labour majorities, even so you can see how the internal arguments within the Labour Party which are there, we know that although most Labour supporters don’t take a side in the current conflict in the Middle East but those who do, both Muslim and non-Muslim, are much more likely to support the Palestinian side than the Israeli side. That does raise a question for Sir Keir Starmer.”

He added: “You can see the tensions that Sir Keir Starmer faces, they are not going to go away. Though the truth is at the moment by-election results elsewhere let alone the opinion polls suggest that Sir Keir at the moment is still well on course to win a general election.”

07:14 AM GMT

‘Another poor Conservative performance,’ says leading polling expert

The Rochdale by-election represented “another poor Conservative performance”, a leading polling expert said.

Professor Sir John Curtice told the BBC Breakfast programme: “So far as Mr 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.

06:59 AM GMT

Sir John Curtice: Labour vote ‘literally collapsed’ at Rochdale by-election

Labour’s vote in Rochdale “literally collapsed” as it suffered the “biggest drop” in support at a by-election since the Second World War, Professor Sir John Curtice said.

Labour withdrew its support from its original candidate, Azhar Ali, after an anti-Semitism row. He finished in fourth place with 2,402 votes.

Labour had won the seat at the 2019 general election with a majority of almost 10,000.

Sir John, a leading polling expert, told BBC Breakfast: “The truth is Labour’s vote, sure, Labour’s vote was going to go down giving their disowning [of 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-Palesitinian 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.”

06:29 AM GMT

Rochdale by-election results in full

These are the full results of the Rochdale by-election:

  • George Galloway (WPB) 12,335 (39.65 per cent)

  • David Tully (Ind) 6,638 (21.34 per cent)

  • Paul Ellison (C) 3,731 (11.99 per cent, -19.21 per cent)

  • Azhar Ali (Lab) 2,402 (7.72 per cent, -43.86 per cent)

  • Iain Donaldson (LD) 2,164 (6.96 per cent, -0.02 per cent)

  • Simon Danczuk (Reform) 1,968 (6.33 per cent)

  • William Howarth (Ind) 523 (1.68 per cent)

  • Mark Coleman (ND) 455 (1.46 per cent)

  • Guy Otten (Green) 436 (1.40%, -0.68 per cent)

  • Michael Howarth (Ind) 246 (0.79 per cent)

  • Ravin Rodent Subortna (Loony) 209 (0.67 per cent)

06:08 AM GMT

Starmer has woken up to his ‘worst nightmare’, says Galloway

George Galloway said Sir Keir Starmer had “woken up to his worst nightmare” after his victory in the Rochdale by-election.

Mr Galloway said his Workers Party of Britain will stand candidates in dozens of Labour-held constituencies at the next general election and will “either defeat them ourselves or cause their defeat”.

Asked if he believed his party could replicate his Rochdale success in other seats, Mr Galloway told GB News: “Yes, especially in this region. I don’t know what will happen elsewhere in the country but I have now received deputations from Bolton, from Oldham, from Blackburn, from Bury, and from Tameside in Greater Manchester, and that is just the deputations I have received.

“We have got 59 parliamentary candidates ready to go and we will stand in therefore three score Labour seats and either defeat them ourselves or cause their defeat and there will be independents, not Workers Party, but independents that we are ready to support who will stand up and down the country and I know of many already in the field who will now be energised by the result here tonight.

“I think Keir Starmer has woken up this morning to his worst nightmare.”  

05:56 AM GMT

Ann Widdecombe: Return of Galloway to Commons will be ‘interesting phenomenon’

Ann Widdecombe, the former Conservative MP, said the addition of George Galloway to the House of Commons will be an “interesting phenomenon”.

She told GB News this morning: “He is an orator and we have got very, very few of them, if any, actually in Parliament at the moment.”

She added: “We have got an orator coming back into the House of Commons and that alone will be an interesting phenomenon.”

05:36 AM GMT

Good morning

This is Jack Maidment signing in and I will guide you through all of the reaction following George Galloway’s victory in the Rochdale by-election.

05:20 AM GMT

Galloway heckled and targeted with confetti

George Galloway’s victory speech was temporarily interrupted as one of his fellow candidates attempted to shower him with orange confetti while an eco-protester close to the stage accused him of being a denier of climate change.

The protester’s shouts were swiftly drowned out by the left-wing politician’s supporters chanting “Galloway! Galloway!” until she was dragged off by security.

Meanwhile, Reverend Mark Coleman, an independent candidate and climate change campaigner, tried to throw orange confetti over Mr Galloway - the colour closely associated with Just Stop Oil - but it fell short of its target.

The confetti missed its target
The confetti missed its target - PA

04:52 AM GMT

Local businessman is shock runner-up

The surprise runner-up in Rochdale was David Tully, a local businessman and independent candidate, who secured more than 6,600 votes.

Mr Tully ran his campaign on largely local issues, including social housing and the reinstatement of the town’s maternity ward.

He is a season-ticket holder at Rochdale FC – the finances of the club have been a major issue on the doorstep with the threat of liquidation looming over the National League side.

04:08 AM GMT

Galloway claims Tice asked him to stand for Reform

George Galloway has claimed Richard Tice asked him to become a Reform UK candidate in a recent by-election.

Asked about Mr Tice’s claims of intimidation during the campaign, Mr Galloway told Reform UK: “I think Mr Tice has rather lost his balance, and Mr Farage too, and I remind Mr Tice that I have on my telephone a text from him inviting me to be the Reform UK candidate in a by-election not that long ago.

“I’d prefer not to publish it, but if he keeps telling lies about me I will have to tell the truth about him.”

Asked whether his supporters had engaged in bad behaviour, he said: “Absolutely none. Ask the police, ask the police if a single one of our supporters has been arrested or spoken to by them.”

Reform leader Richard Tice, left, with Simon Danczuk, the party's Rochdale candidate
Reform leader Richard Tice, left, with Simon Danczuk, the party's Rochdale candidate - GETTY IMAGES

03:43 AM GMT

Campaign Against Antisemitism worried by Galloway win

The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) has said it is “extremely concerned” about how George Galloway will use his platform after winning the Rochdale by-election.

A spokesperson for the CAA said: “George Galloway has an atrocious record of baiting the Jewish community.

“He has previously and infamously declared Bradford an ‘Israel-free zone’. He said of his previous election loss that ‘the venal, the vile, the racists and the Zionists will all be celebrating’. He described David Baddiel, a Jewish comic who is well-known for not closely associating himself with Israel, as a ‘vile Israel-fanatic’.

“He claimed that the institutional antisemitism within the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn was really ‘a disgraceful campaign of Goebbelsian fiction’, in reference to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propagandist.

“He was sacked by TalkRadio over his views. Recently he has described the atrocity carried out by Hamas on October 7 as a ‘concentration camp breakout’ and referred to Hamas terrorists as ‘fighters’.

“Mr Galloway has now been chosen by the voters of Rochdale to represent them and is once again an MP. Given his historic inflammatory rhetoric and the current situation faced by the Jewish community in this country, we are extremely concerned by how he may use the platform of the House of Commons in the remaining months of this parliament.”

03:23 AM GMT

Galloway: This is for Gaza

After being declared the winning candidate in Rochdale, George Galloway began his speech from the podium.

He said: “Keir Starmer - this is for Gaza. And you will pay a high price, in enabling, encouraging and covering for, the catastrophe presently going on in occupied Palestine in the Gaza strip.

“Rochdale town councillors, I put you on notice now, that I hope to put together a grand alliance...”

Mr Galloway was then interrupted by a woman, shouting that he was a “climate change denier” before she was shouted down and drowned out by shouts of “Gall-o-way! Gall-o-way!”.

He added: “The councillors have to go.

“I want to tell Mr Starmer above all, that the plates have shifted tonight. This is going to spark a movement, a landslide, a shifting of the tectonic plates in scores of parliamentary constituencies.

“Beginning here in the north west, in the West Midlands, in London, from Ilford to Bethnal Green and Bow, 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.”

03:08 AM GMT

‘Gaza George’ Galloway washes away his past

The man once known as Gorgeous George, on account of his extramarital activities, rebranded himself as Gaza George for this bizarrest of by-elections.

Never far from controversy, the 69-year-old Scot stood on a relentlessly pro-Palestine platform which featured a string of personal attacks on Sir Keir Starmer.

With his laser-like pursuit of the Muslim vote and almost singular focus on a foreign policy issue, he once more sought to rewrite the rulebook of British politics.

Rochdale is just the latest waypoint in a political career that has spanned five decades and never seen Mr Galloway stray far from the national media spotlight.

Read more: ‘Gaza George’ Galloway washes away his past – and almost two decades of Labour rule

George Galloway
George Galloway

02:50 AM GMT

Galloway wins

George Galloway has won the seat of Rochdale and is the town’s new MP.

Here are the results:

George Galloway WP - 12,335

David Tully IND 6,638

Paul Ellison CON - 3,731

Azhar Ali LAB - 2,402

Iain Donaldson LD - 2,164

Simon Danczuk RP - 1,968

02:34 AM GMT

Result could be imminent

Council officials are gathering the media and observers around the podium at Rochdale leisure centre, suggesting the declaration of the result is imminent.

George Galloway, wearing a red and black striped tie and his trademark black hat, has gathered next to the stage with the other candidates.

He is set to win a comfortable victory when the final vote tallies are announced in a few minutes’ time.

01:59 AM GMT

Reform leader questions postal voting

Richard Tice has claimed the Rochdale by-election was not “free and fair” after Reform UK’s candidate and campaigners allegedly suffered abuse and death threats.

The Reform UK leader also questioned a sharp rise in the number of postal votes cast, saying they were “unquestionably open to significant abuse”.

In an angry speech at the count in Rochdale leisure centre he reeled off a series of allegations about the mistreatment of his party’s campaign team.

Simon Danczuk, a former Labour MP for the Greater Manchester town, has been representing Reform UK in an ill-tempered by-election battle.

Mr Tice said that Mr Danczuk and his team had been “subjected to death threats” and “suffered vile racist abuse” during the campaign.

Read more: Reform leader alleges suspicious postal voting and intimidation in Rochdale by-election

01:53 AM GMT

Pictured: Count enters final stages

Official Monster Raving Loony Party
Official Monster Raving Loony Party

12:57 AM GMT

Reform leader suspicious of rise in postal voting

Richard Tice, the Reform UK leader, has told reporters that abuse of his party’s candidate and a sharp rise in postal voting meant it has not been “a free and fair election”.

In an angry statement to reporters he said that “what we have witnessed and experienced in Rochdale is deeply disturbing” and has “implications for our democracy”.

He said that his party’s candidate, the former Labour MP Simon Danczuk, and its campaigners had been subject to racist abuse and death threats.

“The results of the Rochdale by-election should act as a stark wake up call to those in power – and the entire electorate,” he said. “This shameful contest has been more characteristic of a failed state.

“Unless something dramatic changes, our fear is that it will be repeated in dozens of constituencies across the UK at the general election. By Christmas, we face the prospect of numerous extremist anti-Semitic lawmakers in the House of Commons.”

12:38 AM GMT

Turnout less than 40pc

The turnout for the Rochdale by-election has just been announced at 39.7pc, which is a relatively low figure by historic standards.

It is fractionally higher than in the Wellingborough and Kingswood by-elections two weeks ago, but still lower than many recent contests.

That is perhaps not surprising given that the campaign has been mired in controversy, with Labour having to withdraw support for its candidate.

There is speculation that Azhar Ali, who stayed in the race as an independent, could come in third place with Labour voters having stayed at home en masse.

12:37 AM GMT

Chris Williamson: We’ll send shockwaves through Westminster

Chris Williamson, a former Labour MP who is now the deputy leader of the Workers Party, said a win for Mr Galloway will “send shockwaves through Westminster”.

He also defended Mr Galloway’s relentless focus on Gaza in the campaign, saying it is “absolutely right that people have an international dimension to their political outlook”.

“We believe that we’ve won comfortably today and it really will send shockwaves through the Palace of Westminster,” he told Sky News.

Asked about the focus on Gaza, he added: “It’s a crucially important international issue.

“Millions of people in Britain are horrified by the scenes they’re seeing on their television screens and their smartphones and they cannot believe that the political class are facilitating this ongoing genocide in Gaza.”

12:20 AM GMT

What time is the result?

Officials and politicians at the count say the result is set to be declared at about 2am - an hour earlier than initially expected.

Mr Galloway, who is now widely predicted to win, is expected to hold a victory rally shortly afterwards.

The counting is proceeding at a swift pace within Rochdale leisure centre amid a low hum of activity.

Dozens of officials are sorting ballot papers into neat piles in the main sports hall, against the backdrop of garish tropical green walls.

11:55 PM GMT

Galloway declares victory already

Sources close to George Galloway are already claiming that the veteran left-wing campaigner has “comfortably” won tonight’s Rochdale by-election.

Counting has been under way for just under two hours in the contest, which has been marked by controversies around all the main candidates.

In a statement upon the closing of the polls, Mr Galloway said: “Thank you to every voter who took the time to send a message to the political class today.

“More than ever, they are two cheeks of the same backside, and in just a few hours they are set to get a good kicking.

“No matter how you voted today, thank you for doing so. I promise, if elected tonight, to be an MP for all Rochdalians - no matter who you voted for.”

Galloway's team are confident of a shock win for the former Respect MP
Galloway's team are confident of a shock win for the former Respect MP - REUTERS