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UK voters go to polls in divisive Rochdale by-election

The Gaza conflict takes centre stage in British politics as voters go to the polls in the Rochdale by-election, in what is seen as one of the UK’s most divisive contests in recent years.

After a chaotic campaign, left-wing politician George Galloway has emerged as the bookies favourite to win.

Rochdale which is in the Greater Manchester area has a sizeable Muslim population making up around 30% of the electorate.

George Galloway, former Labour MP and Celebrity Big Brother contestant, who is representing the Workers’ Party of Britain has promised to make the by-election a referendum on the Gaza conflict.

However, there is some pushback on that even among the Muslim population as the area has many local problems including high levels of deprivation.

Labour candidate Azhar Ali has been suspended by his party for remarks about Israel and the Jewish community.

The hard right party Reform UK is hoping to capitalise on the Left wing split and dissatisfaction with the government.

Simon Danczuk is one of 11 candidates in the Rochdale by-election

Ex-Labour Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, barred for standing for Labour in the 2017 general election after apologising for “inappropriate” text messages sent to a 17-year-old girl, is standing for the Reform Party.

Meanwhile to add to the confusion, the Conservative Party candidate was away on holiday a week before polling.

A planned BBC televised debate had to be cancelled after all but two of the candidates pulled out leaving just George Galloway and Simon Danczuk.

The result is expected in the early hours of tomorrow.

Additional reporting PA

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