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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Nuray Bulbul

Who is George Galloway? Rochdale elects ex-Labour MP

After winning the Rochdale by-election, George Galloway declared: "This is for Gaza."

He took 12,335 votes to defeat independent David Tully, who received 6,638 votes to take second place. Labour had dropped its candidate, Azhar Ali, after he was seen on camera endorsing conspiracy theories about Israel. He finished fourth. The turnout was low at 39.7 per cent.

Mr Galloway said on Friday: "Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza," a reference to the Labour leader who at first declined to demand a truce in Gaza.

He said: “You have paid and you will pay a high price for the role you have played in enabling, encouraging and covering for the catastrophe presently going on in … in the Gaza Strip.”

As Mr Galloway led a pro-Palestinian campaign in the heavily Muslim district, he accused both Labour and the Conservatives of supporting Israel.

But who is George Galloway and what does he stand for?

Who is George Galloway?

Mr Galloway was born in 1954 and raised in Dundee, Scotland.

He became the youngest-ever chair of the Scottish Labour Party at the age of 26. He later became the general secretary of the London-based charity War on Want from 1983 until his election as MP for Glasgow Hillhead (later Glasgow Kelvin) in the 1987 general election.

After being kicked out of Labour in 2003, Mr Galloway served as an independent member of parliament until joining the Respect Party, which opposed the war in Iraq.Before the 2005 general election, his constituency was abolished, and he left Scotland to run for the east London seat of Bethnal Green and Bow. He defeated Labour's Oona King to win the seat.

She later described the election as "one of the dirtiest campaigns we have ever seen in British politics", claiming she was subjected to antisemitic taunts while running.As a supporter of Tony Blair, Ms King supported the Iraq War, which dominated the election campaign in her seat.

Mr Galloway participated in the 2006 season of Celebrity Big Brother while still an MP. He dressed like a leotard and pretended to be a cat.

His political career took a hit after this. He ran for office in 2010 in the constituency of Poplar and Limehouse, which borders Bethnal Green and Bow but finished third.

Two years later, he tried his hand at Westminster once more, winning the Bradford West by-election in 2012 but he was ousted from his seat in the subsequent general election.

In the 2016 London mayoral election, he ran under Respect but received just 1.4 per cent of the vote.

He then ran as an independent in the general elections of 2017 and 2019, but he was not successful in Manchester Gorton or West Bromwich East.

In 2021, he ran for his own Workers Party of Britain in the Batley and Spen by-election, but he was unsuccessful.

When was he in the Labour party?

He joined the Labour Party as a teenager, rising to the position of chairman of the Scottish branch by the time he was 26. He first made it to the Commons after winning the Glasgow Hillhead seat in the 1987 general election.

Mr Galloway belonged to the Left-wing of the Labour Party, more in line with Michael Foot or Tony Benn, and he frequently rebelled against the party throughout Tony Blair's tenure as prime minister.

He and the prime minister had a falling out over the UK's role in the Iraq War, and in 2003 his remarks on the subject led to his expulsion from the party.

What does George Galloway stand for?

Mr Galloway declared in his candidature announcement that a Tory-Labor duopoly in Britain, in which the two major parties "stand for entirely the same things... including on the supremely important issues of war and peace" has "no future”.

He has pledged to challenge Labour, which threw its support behind Israel in the wake of the 7 October offensive spearheaded by the Palestinian organisation Hamas, by speaking out on Gaza in Parliament.

Since then, the Labour Party has changed its mind and in February said it is in favour of an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

Mr Galloway intends to take advantage of Labour's divisions. In his words, voters in Rochdale can use the by-election to show their support for "the people soaking wet, freezing cold hungry, living out in the open in Gaza".

He declared: “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 2019 he founded the Workers Party of Britain and is its leader and sole MP. He set up the party in response to the disastrous showing by Labour under Jeremy Corbyn in the general election of that year.

The party has outlined 10 points of policy, which include ending "imperialist wars", leaving Nato, reviving British industry and providing "decent, cheap, secure housing for all". It aims to "build a new working class politics in Britain”.

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