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Starmer should be very, very worried after Galloway win

todayMarch 1, 2024 2

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Starmer should be very, very worried after Galloway win

He’s back! The left-wing firebrand and Celtic FC fanatic George Galloway has now scored a hat-trick of election victories over Labour, the party he represented in parliament for 16 years.

After ousting Oona King in Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005 and winning a spectacular by-election in Bradford West in 2012, he has now done the treble with a stunning and controversial triumph in Rochdale.

His majority over an independent candidate, David Tully, was a comfortable 5,697, with the Conservatives third, Liberal Democrats fourth and the disowned Labour candidate Azhar Ali fifth.

Politics latest: George Galloway celebrates victory

Electoral Dysfunction

Electoral Dysfunction

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The polls had been closed for less than an hour when the Galloway team claimed victory here. “We’ve won – comfortably,” a source close to his campaign told Sky News before 11pm. How right they were. It was indeed comfortable.

In a rousing victory speech, he denounced Labour and the Conservatives as “two cheeks of the same backside” and claimed he had put Sir Keir Starmer on notice.

He declared with characteristic Galloway passion: “Starmer, this is for Gaza. You have paid, and you will pay, a high price for the role you have played in enabling, encouraging and covering for the catastrophe currently going on in occupied Palestine in the Gaza Strip.”

He relentlessly targeted his former party during the campaign. One leaflet, showing a pugilistic Mr Galloway in his trademark fedora with raised fists and a glum-looking Labour leader, said: “It’s George Galloway or Keir Starmer’s Labour in Rochdale.”

Another was headlined: “For Rochdale, for Gaza.” It went on: “The people of Gaza don’t have a vote in this election – you do.”

And it concluded: “This election is a straight choice between George who will fight for Palestine and the people of Rochdale – and Keir Starmer, who will fight for Israel.”

Pic: PA

Image:
Mr Galloway campaigned extensively on the issue of Gaza. Pic: PA

But of course, strictly speaking, it wasn’t Sir Keir’s Labour Party he was fighting. The Labour candidate, Azhar Ali, was disowned by his party on 13 February after comments he made about the Hamas attacks on Israel at a meeting in Lancashire.

“The Egyptians are saying that they warned Israel 10 days earlier… Americans warned them a day before… there’s something happening,” the Mail on Sunday reported him saying.

“They deliberately took the security off, they allowed… that massacre gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want.”

This was dismissed by the Labour leadership as a wild and antisemitic conspiracy theory – Mr Ali apologised and was dumped a few days later. But it was too late for Sir Keir to repair the damage.

Nominations had closed, which meant he was still the candidate and his name – beginning, fortuitously for him, with the letter A – remained at the top of the ballot paper.

Fat lot of good it did him, as he was pushed into fifth place, behind Mr Galloway, political virgin Mr Tully, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Read more:
Who is George Galloway, the new MP for Rochdale?

The fight for ‘the forgotten corner of England’
Labour withdraws support for Rochdale by-election candidate

Former Labour MP and new Respect MP George Galloway (left) shakes hands with defeated Labour candidate Oona King, after winning the Bethnal Green & Bow constituency at the East Winter Gardens, London. Pic: PA

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Mr Galloway beat Oona King in 2005. Pic: PA

For Reform UK, also, it was a night to forget, with the former Labour MP for Rochdale Simon Danczuk coming a humiliating sixth, after recent good performances in by-elections that gave Rishi Sunak and the Tories the jitters.

There will be relief in the Tory high command at Reform UK’s poor showing here. For once, after a by-election, Mr Sunak will be relieved and Sir Keir horrified.

Before the result was declared, Reform UK’s leader Richard Tice launched a blistering attack live on Sky News on Mr Danczuk’s opponents. Though he didn’t name names, he appeared to be accusing Mr Galloway’s supporters and those of Mr Ali.

He said Mr Danczuk had faced “vile racist abuse and death threats”. His party’s staff had been intimidated, and they’d had to hire security guards. Business supporters had been threatened with being firebombed and there had been intimidation at polling stations, he claimed.

But in an interview with Sky News immediately after his victory speech, Mr Galloway denied any wrongdoing and said it was his supporters who had faced intimidation during the campaign.

Rochdale by-election full result

  • George Galloway – Workers Party of Britain – 12,335
  • David Tully – Independent – 6,638
  • Paul Ellison – Conservative – 3,731
  • Azhar Ali – Labour – 2,402
  • Iain Donaldson – Liberal Democrat – 2,164
  • Simon Danczuk – Reform – 1,968
  • William Howart – Independent – 523
  • Mark Coleman – Independent – 455
  • Guy Otten – Green – 436
  • Michael Howarth – Independent – 246
  • Ravin Rodent Subortna – Monster Raving Loony – 209

Mr Tice also challenged the legitimacy of the very high number of postal votes cast, a claim his friend and predecessor Nigel Farage has been making in by-elections for years.

For Labour, meanwhile, when it holds its inquest into the debacle of this by-election, it will reflect on how what should have been a routine by-election win in a relatively safe seat turned into Sir Keir’s worst nightmare – a win for George Galloway.

If the Labour leader thinks he gets a hard time now from the SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn and the Corbynite Labour left over the Israel-Hamas ceasefire row, wait until the ferocious Galloway starts tearing into him in the Commons chamber.

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‘Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza’ – Galloway

Top of the agenda for the Labour inquest will be to identify which idiot decided to hold the by-election in such an unseemly rush after the death of veteran MP and party stalwart Sir Tony Lloyd.

There used to be a convention that a party waited until after the funeral of an MP who’d died before starting moves to select a candidate or plan for the by-election.

Yet here Labour threw convention out of the window and moved with indecent haste. Sir Tony died on 17 January and Mr Ali was selected, defeating political journalist Paul Waugh, just 10 days later, on 27 January.

Sir Tony’s funeral, however, was not until 16 February, three days after Sir Keir had been forced to jettison Mr Ali after allegations from opponents that the Labour leader dithered over how to respond to the Mail on Sunday’s initial report.

It’s not as if Labour hasn’t made this blunder before. In Hartlepool in 2021, Labour MP Mike Hill resigned on 18 March after sexual harassment allegations and Labour raced ahead with the by-election on 6 May, the same day as the local elections.

Then, Labour’s would-be candidates were only given one day to submit their applications and there were allegations of a stitch-up. The by-election was a disaster, with the Tories’ Jill Mortimer winning in a “red wall” triumph for the Conservatives.

Sir Keir responded then by sacking chief whip Nick Brown and attempting to sideline his deputy, Angela Rayner, in a clumsy reshuffle, perhaps forgetting that she was elected to her position by the party and couldn’t be sacked.

There will, surely, be more recriminations after Rochdale, which for the maverick known as “Gorgeous George”, this morning is indeed a beautiful new dawn.

There’s a real risk now that Mr Galloway will carry out his threat to stand up to 50 pro-ceasefire, anti-Israel candidates against Labour in the general election.

Chris Williamson, a Corbynite Labour ex-MP who was here at the Rochdale count supporting Mr Galloway, has told Sky News he hopes to be selected to fight the retiring grandee Margaret Beckett’s Derby South seat at the general election.

George Galloway holds a rally at his Rochdale Headquarters after being declared winner of the Rochdale by-election, which was triggered after the death of Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd. Picture date: Thursday February 29, 2024.

Image:
George Galloway at a celebration rally. Pic: PA

So it’s not just an election hat-trick that Mr Galloway is celebrating. He hopes to score more victories over his former party later this year, as he also declared in his victory speech.

But amid all the controversy of this campaign, Mr Galloway also claims to have made history in an even more grand manner with his victory here in Rochdale.

In his Sky News interview, he said it was his seventh parliamentary election victory in four different cities, which equals the record of Winston Churchill.

On level terms with Churchill? Modesty has never been Mr Galloway’s style, of course.

But after this hat-trick of election victories for the controversial left-wing firebrand, Sir Keir Starmer should be very, very worried indeed.

Written by: Newsroom

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