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Who is George Galloway? Workers Party of Britain MP and Celebrity Big Brother contest who won Rochdale

Political firebrand stood for the Workers Party of Britain in opposition to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s position on the war in Gaza

Archie Mitchell,Zoe Grunewald
Friday 01 March 2024 07:25 GMT
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George Galloway angered by questions on Daily Politics

George Galloway will make yet another return to parliament.

The political firebrand has won by the Rochdale by-election for the Workers Party of Britain, basing his campaign in opposition to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s position on the war in Gaza.

Mr Galloway’s return to politics will be his fourth parliamentary seat, after the candidate made headway throughout Rochdale with his pro-Palestine position.

George Galloway won the Rochdale by-election for the Workers Party of Britain with 12,335 votes.

Addressing the crowd, Mr Galloway said: “Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza. You will pay a high price for enabling, encouraging and covering for the catastrophe presently going on in occupied Palestine in the Gaza Strip.”

Who is George Galloway?

Workers Party of Britain candidate George Calloway speaks after being declared the winner in the Rochdale by-election (Getty Images)

Mr Galloway was Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead from 1987, and after that constituency was abolished before the 1997 election, he became Labour MP for its successor, Glasgow Kelvin.

He was expelled from the Labour party in 2003 for bringing the party into disrepute, after he called the then Labour Government "Tony Blair’s lie machine", and said British troops fighting in Iraq should refuse to obey their orders.

He remained in his Glasgow seat until the next election, and then went on to join the Respect Party, representing it in the Bethnal Green & Bow and Bradford West constituencies.

In 2006 he appeared in the fourth series of Celebrity Big Brother, becoming notorious for a bizarre impersonation of actress Rula Lenska’s pet cat. He lasted three weeks before he was evicted.

What is the Workers Party of Britain?

The Workers Party of Britain was founded by Mr Galloway in 2019, who is also the party leader and now its only MP.

It was created in response to Jeremy Corbyn’s defeat in the general election of that year.

The party has a 10 point manifesto to ‘build a new working class politics in Britain’, including bring an end to ‘imperialist wars’, withdrawing from Nato, rebuilding British industry and ‘decent, cheap, secure housing for all’.

Why is he a controversial figure?

Mr Galloway meeting Saddam Hussein in 2002 (INA/AFP via Getty Images)

He has long been an ardent supporter of the Palestinian people and staunch critic of Israel, calling for the dismantling of the "Zionist state".

But he has also been accused of antisemitism, including when he was sacked by TalkRadio in 2019 for congratulating Liverpool FC over beating Tottenham Hotspur FC in the Champions League final by tweeting “No Israël flags on the Cup!”

He was previously accused of racism in 2013 for walking out of a debate at Oxford University after discovering that his opponent was an Israeli citizen. “I don’t debate with Israelis,” he said

Mr Galloway has also done and said things which would have spelled the end of other politicians’ careers, including being vilified in the press for meeting Saddam Hussein. The ex-MP was criticised in 2012 for appearing to state that having sex with an unconscious woman would be “bad sexual etiquette” but not rape.

The former Labour MP also got into hot water when he used a derogatory term for disabled people on social media site X, formerly known as Twitter.

Mr Galloway called a twitter user a “window licker” - an offensive slur against people with disabilities.

And, standing in Bradford West in 2015 against Labour MP Naz Shah, who had written about being forced to marry as a teenager, Mr Galloway accused her of lying about the details.

Adding to the controversy surrounding him, Mr Galloway shared a fake AI-generated audio clip of Labour leader Sir Keir suggesting he did not care about Labour losing the Rochdale contest as long as he was “scoring points with Israel”.

MrGalloway has built a political career on fierce opposition to Western foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East (PA Wire)

Why did he stand in Rochdale?

Announcing his campaign, Mr Galloway said there is “no future” for Britain as a Tory Labour duopoly where both major parties “stand for entirely the same things… including on the supremely important issues of war and peace”.

He painted the Rochdale by-election as an opportunity for constituents to send a message of support to “the people soaking wet, freezing cold hungry, living out in the open in Gaza”.

He insisted that “the people of Gaza would be voting for me in the Rochdale by-election” and urged voters to back him to send a message to Sir Keir and the “British political class”.

How did George Galloway win?

Mr Galloway won the Rochdale by-election for the Worker’s Party of Britain, overturning a Labour majority of 9,668.

He took almost 40 per cent of the vote and a majority of almost 5,700.

Rochdale represents Mr Galloway’s fourth different seat in parliament since 1987, an achievement which – he noted – emulates Winston Churchill.

Second to Mr Galloway was David Tully, who won 6,638 votes as an independent candidate campaigning on local issues.

The turnout was 39.7%.

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