George Galloway reelected britain house of commons
George Galloway has clinched a stunning victory in the Rochdale by-election after one of the most divisive and controversial contests in recent history
Controversial politician to make shock return to the Commons after his hardline pro-Palestinian stance brings victory amid Labour vote collapse - as he fires warning at Keir Starmer and says: 'This is for Gaza'

George Galloway has clinched a stunning victory in the Rochdale by-election after one of the most divisive and chaotic contests in recent history.

Local voters have chosen the firebrand politician as their new MP to replace Sir Tony Lloyd, following the death of the veteran Labour politician last month.

Mr Galloway, who put a hardline pro-Palestinian stance at the heart of his campaign, is now set to end his nine-year absence from the House of Commons.

'Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza,' the 69-year-old declared, as soon as he was announced as the winning candidate in Rochdale just before 3am.

Although the stunning victory came after Labour was forced to disown its candidate Azhar Ali over remarks condemned as anti-Semitic, the result will raise concerns that the party's support more widely could be affected by Sir Keir's stance on Israel.

Mr Galloway sent an immediate warning to Labour that he would use his new platform in Parliament to berate Sir Keir Starmer over his position on the Middle East crisis.

The maverick will return to Westminster as a representative of a third different political party - the Workers Party of Britain - having previously been both a Labour and Respect MP.

The father-of-six won 12,335 votes in the by-election, which was just under 40 per cent of the vote share. This put him ahead of second-placed independent candidate David Tully who won 6,638 votes (21 per cent). Azhar Ali, the former Labour candidate who was ditched by the party following an 'anti-Semitism' storm, was fourth with just 2,402 votes (7.72 per cent).

georg galloway reelected
© ReutersVotes for Mr Galloway, who put a hardline pro-Palestinian stance at the heart of his campaign, are seen on a table at a polling station
Sir Tony had won Rochdale for Labour at the 2019 general election with a majority of almost 10,000 votes.

Mr Galloway used his victory speech to go on the attack against Sir Keir Starmer over the Labour leader's Gaza stance after being declared the by-election winner.

He warned Sir Keir: '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.'

Mr Galloway was interrupted by a woman shouting that he was a 'climate change denier' before she was drowned out by shouts of 'Gall-o-way! Gall-o-way!'.

'I want to tell Mr Starmer above all, the plates have shifted tonight,' Mr Galloway then continued.

'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.'

Mr Galloway claimed Labour was now 'on notice that they have lost the confidence of millions of their voters who loyally and traditionally voted for them'.

'I've heard some of the narrative being spun around this election result this evening,' he added. 'Yes its true, that every Muslim is bitterly angry at Keir Starmer and his listing Labour Party.

'But you would be very foolish, if you did not realise that millions of other citizens of our country are too.

'Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak are two cheeks of the same backside and they both got well and truly spanked tonight!'

The contest to replace Sir Tony as Rochdale's MP was marred by raging tensions over Gaza, with claims of death threats, candidates wearing stab vests, and vandalism.

Mr Galloway, a controversial figure, became the favourite to win the by-election after Labour's bid to retain the Greater seat imploded.

Sir Keir Starmer's party had to ditch support for Mr Ali, a local councillor, as their official candidate following the emergence of his remarks about Israel.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) expressed its concerns about Mr Galloway's own views following his victory in Rochdale.

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

'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.'

Ahead of the Rochdale result being declared in the early hours of Friday, supporters of Mr Galloway had predicted a comfortable win for their candidate.

Chris Williamson, a former Labour MP and now deputy leader of Mr Galloway's Workers Party of Britain, told Sky News:
'We believe that we've won comfortably today and it really will, I think, send shockwaves through the Palace of Westminster.

'But it will also, I think, give hope to tens of thousands, if not millions of people in the country who are looking for a genuine alternative, because our democracy has been stolen from us.

'The Labour Party and the Conservative Party are effectively often the same thing.'
He added that a victory for Mr Galloway represented 'a total rejection of mainstream party politics'.

James Giles, campaign manager for Mr Galloway, said: 'It is going better than our wildest hopes. George will win here by a fair margin.'

A victory rally has been planned by Galloway supporters at their campaign HQ - a Suzuki car dealership in the town.

Simon Danczuk, the Reform UK candidate, was another ex-Labour MP looking for a way back into Parliament having previously been Rochdale's MP between 2010 and 2017.

He quit Labour almost seven years ago amid a 'sexting' scandal, when he was alleged to have sent explicit messages to a teenager.

Reform leader Richard Tice earlier conceded that Mr Danczuk's bid in Rochdale had failed, telling Sky News: 'There's no question Mr Galloway has won this election by what looks like a considerable margin. Everyone else, frankly, is also- rans.'

Mr Tice bemoaned how 'menacing behaviour' had 'been a feature of this entire campaign' including 'outside polling stations' on Thursday.

He also questioned the validity of postal votes returned during the contest.

Former Reform UK leader Nigel Farage has previously criticised postal voting on a number of occasions following defeats for his various parties.

Mr Danczuk secured a little more than 6 per cent of the vote, coming sixth behind Mr Ali, the former Labour candidate.

William Howarth, an independent candidate said he agreed with Mr Tice that there had been an 'element of intimidation' running through the election campaign.

He revealed he was abused by a man carrying a Palestine flag on Thursday in Rochdale town centre.

After spotting his rosette the man called him 'a dirty Zionist bastard', Mr Howarth said. He added the man was arrested by police.

Comment: Arrested for insulting someone?!

Mr Danczuk previously reported being the subject of a death threat during the campaign with police said to have made an arrest.

Mr Galloway denied his supporters had engaged in any intimidation, and claimed on Sky News that Mr Tice had invited him to be a Reform UK candidate in a recent by-election.

He added that he hoped he would be introduced to the Commons by Conservative former minister Sir David Davis and the former Labour leader, and now independent MP, Jeremy Corbyn.

There had been thoughts that Mr Ali might go on to win the Rochdale contest, after Labour discarded him too late to remove him from ballot paper.

He told ITV News on Thursday: 'I'm still on the ballot paper, I've been campaigning for the last few weeks and I'm hoping for a positive result.'

Asked whether he would take up his seat in the House of Commons if he won the by-election, Mr Ali replied: 'Absolutely.'

There had also been controversy around Green candidate Guy Otten, who had his party's support withdrawn over comments he made on Twitter.

But, like Mr Ali, his name still appeared on ballot papers when locals went to polling stations on Thursday.

Labour's campaign fell apart after a recording surfaced of Mr Ali suggesting Israel 'deliberately allowed' Hamas terror attacks on October 7 as a pretext to invade Gaza.

Shadow cabinet members Lisa Nandy and Anneliese Dodds both campaigned for him before Labour eventually withdrew support amid growing criticism.

The action against Mr Ali also followed the emergence of a fuller recording in which he was heard commenting on 'people in the media from certain Jewish quarters'.

Mr Ali subsequently apologised 'to Jewish leaders for my inexcusable comments'.

After he was ditched by Labour, local voters were urged to 'teach Keir Starmer a lesson' by continuing to support Mr Ali.

Pro-Palestinian backers of Mr Ali were reported to be sharing anti-Starmer posters on WhatsApp in a bid to drum up votes.

Alongside an image of Mr Ali, one read: 'Sacked by Starmer for speaking on Palestine. It's time to teach Starmer a lesson in Rochdale. Vote Azhar Ali.'

Another depicted Sir Keir as a clown and dubbed the Labour leader as 'anti Palestine Starmer', in comparison to Mr Ali as 'a stong voice for Palestine'.

Mr Galloway's campaign was also heavy on the Palestinian cause and Gaza, an issue close to the heart of many of Rochdale's Muslim population.

His team believed 15,000 votes would be enough to win most by-elections and Rochdale has a 30,000-strong Asian community.

There had been incidents of his campaign posters being torn down.

Mr Danczuk had branded Mr Galloway's campaign as divisive and claimed his rival would be the 'MP for Gaza', not Rochdale.

The Tories were never expecting any success in Rochdale, with the Greater Manchester constituency having not had a Conservative MP since the 1950s.

Tory ex-Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick on Thursday hit out at how the Rochdale contest had become known as the 'Gaza by-election'.

He criticised some candidates for being 'more interested in a conflict they have no influence over than improving the lives of local people', adding: 'Shameful.'

Rochdale, which is one of the most deprived in England and voted 60 per cent in favour of Brexit, has also been the subject of Asian grooming gang scandals.

A major report in January concluded that young girls were left 'at the mercy' of paedophiles due to failings by senior police and council bosses.

Mr Howarth, involved in the group Parents Against Grooming UK, stood at the by-election as an independent.

He said he had taken to wearing a stab-vest while campaigning, such were tensions in the town during the contest.