‘This Is For Gaza’: George Galloway, Leftist Firebrand, Wins Rochdale By-Election

As he celebrated victory early Friday after successful a parliamentary election, George Galloway, a veteran left-wing firebrand, directed his assault squarely on the chief of Britain’s opposition Labour Party.

“Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza,” Mr. Galloway stated, sporting the fedora hat that has develop into his trademark. “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.”

Mr. Galloway received the election — for a seat in Rochdale, north of Manchester, that had beforehand been held by Labour — after a chaotic marketing campaign that turned emblematic of the anger that has swept via British politics over the warfare in Gaza.

Voting passed off on Thursday to interchange Tony Lloyd, a Labour Party lawmaker who had represented the district however died of blood most cancers in January. Mr. Galloway achieved a transparent victory, with 12,335 votes.

Mr. Galloway, founding father of the far-left Workers Party of Britain, as soon as represented Labour in Parliament, however he was pressured out of the social gathering in 2003 over his outspoken criticism of the Iraq warfare.

Victory in Rochdale was the most recent act of revenge from a maverick politician who had run in a number of earlier elections in opposition to his former social gathering, generally efficiently. Mr. Galloway has a protracted historical past of fierce and at instances inflammatory rhetoric, and he has a aptitude for producing publicity.

He met with Saddam Hussein in 1994, for instance, telling the Iraqi dictator, “I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.”

In 2003, he referred to Tony Blair, then Britain’s prime minister, and George W. Bush, then the U.S. president, as “wolves” for invading Iraq, and he urged British troops to disregard army orders that he known as unlawful. Mr. Galloway was pressured out of the Labour Party later that yr however, with the turmoil that unfolded after the invasion, he had a strong problem on which to marketing campaign. He went on to win parliamentary seats in 2005 in Bethnal Green in jap London, and in 2012 in Bradford West, in northern England, each instances for the Respect Party.

In 2009, whereas he was a member of Parliament, Mr. Galloway was criticized by a British media regulator for breaking impartiality rules throughout applications he offered on Press TV, an Iranian state-owned community.

For a time, he appeared repeatedly on Russia Today, declaring tens of thousands of pounds in revenue from the broadcaster in 2014 and 2015. Not all of his media appearances have been political, nonetheless. In 2006, he appeared on “Celebrity Big Brother,” a actuality TV present in Britain, the place at one level he stunned viewers by role playing as a cat and pretending to lick milk from one other contestant’s palms.

In Rochdale, Labour had inadvertently made it simpler for Mr. Galloway when it was pressured to droop its personal candidate, Azhar Ali, basically leaving the seat undefended. Mr. Ali had been recorded claiming that Israel had “allowed” Hamas to go forward with the Oct. 7 assaults as a pretext to invade Gaza. He later issued an announcement saying that he apologized “unreservedly to the Jewish community for my comments which were deeply offensive, ignorant, and false.”

The debacle was a selected embarrassment for Mr. Starmer, who has made a giant push to root out the antisemitism that troubled Labour underneath the management of his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn.

To make issues worse, by the point Mr. Starmer acted in opposition to Mr. Ali, it was too late to interchange him, and his title remained on the poll for the Thursday election, attracting 2,402 votes. David Tully, an impartial, got here second with 6,638 votes.

Not for the primary time in his profession, Mr. Galloway appealed on to Muslim voters, who make up round 30 p.c of the voters in Rochdale. Many of them have expressed anger in regards to the rising loss of life toll and humanitarian disaster in Gaza and wish Britain to press more durable for a right away cease-fire.

In his marketing campaign literature, Mr. Galloway described Mr. Starmer as a “top supporter of Israel” and prompt his management may very well be weakened by the result of the vote. “Imagine — the people of Rochdale coming together to topple the hated Labour leader,” the leaflet stated.

That prospect could also be fanciful as recent polling suggests that voters favor Mr. Starmer over different main politicians, whereas Labour seems to have a powerful lead forward of a nationwide election anticipated this yr.

Referring to Mr. Galloway, Robert Ford, a professor of political science at Manchester University, stated, “He’s a one-off, you can’t clone him.”

“He does have a remarkable campaigning ability, he’s very good at intuiting the emotive lines that will land in any particular context, and he’s proved that again,” Professor Ford added.

While Mr. Galloway’s success is subsequently unlikely to be repeated elsewhere, there are nonetheless some implications for Labour. “It’s going to affect internal Labour party politics in the run-up to the election; it’s going to affect the conversations about how to fight the general election campaign,” Professor Ford stated.

Returning to Parliament, Mr. Galloway is prone to do his finest to be a thorn in Labour’s aspect and to attempt to exploit inside social gathering tensions over the Middle East.

On Friday, he used a characteristically crude picture to equate Mr. Starmer’s coverage with that of Britain’s prime minister, Rishi Sunak, calling them “two cheeks of the same backside.”

“They both got well and truly spanked tonight here in Rochdale,” Mr. Galloway stated.

The one brilliant spot for Mr. Starmer is that, with the final election looming, Mr. Galloway must battle for re-election quickly if he needs to remain a lawmaker for quite a lot of months.

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