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‘This is for Gaza’ – George Galloway wins UK by-election

Controversial left wing politician George Galloway has won the Rochdale by-election in England saying “this is for Gaza”.

Mr Galloway, who has now been an MP for three different parties – Labour, the Respect Party and now the Workers’ Party of Britain – won the by-election with over 12,000 votes or nearly 40% of the total.

In his victory speech, Mr Galloway began by focusing on Palestine, saying: “Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza.

“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 also pledged to work to improve local health services, help the local football club and bring Primark to the town.

He added that he would put Rochdale councillors “on notice” that he intended to form a “grand alliance” to “clean the town hall up” at the local elections in May.

His majority of 5,697 votes amounted to 18.3% of the total, on a turnout of 39.7%, a little higher than the two recent by-elections in Wellingborough and Kingswood.

In response to his victory Labour said Mr Galloway will be a “damaging force” and that he is only interested in spreading fear and division.

The statement claimed that he only won because Labour did not stand and it apologised to the people of Rochdale.

Azhar Ali, the person selected by Labour, was suspended from the party for making remarks widely considered to be antisemitic.

He had repeated a conspiracy theory that Israel had let the Hamas attacks happen and blamed the Jewish community for the suspension of another Labour MP.

Vote counting starts as polls closed in the Rochdale by-election

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

The Conservatives finished in third place with 3,731 votes while the former Labour party candidate came fourth with 2,402.

Mr Ali remained listed as the Labour candidate as the party’s decision came too late for ballot papers to be changed.

The Liberal Democrats were fifth with 2,164 and Reform UK sixth with 1,968.

The Rochdale campaign has been mired in controversy and claims of intimidation and divisive tactics.

Reform UK’s leader Richard Tice claimed his candidate, former Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, had received a death threat during the campaign and said his party’s campaign team had been subject to “daily intimidation and slurs”.

Recriminations continued after polls closed, with Mr Tice alleging to the PA news agency that “menacing behaviour” had featured throughout the campaign and questioning the validity of the postal ballots returned during the contest.

He said: “This by-election and result should act as a serious wake-up call to those in power and indeed to the entire electorate.

“We are supposed to be a beacon of democracy, this shameful contest has been more characteristic of a failed state.”

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

The party’s candidate, Mr Danczuk, represented the seat for Labour but was barred from standing for the party in 2017 after he admitted sending “inappropriate” messages to a 17-year-old girl.

Reform UK’s Simon Danczuk secured just over 6% of the vote

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

Independent candidate William Howarth agreed with Mr Tice that there had been an “element of intimidation” during the campaign.

However, Mr Galloway denied his supporters had engaged in any intimidation, and claimed 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 David Davis and the former Labour leader, and now independent MP, Jeremy Corbyn.

Additional reporting by PA

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