Galloway attempts to turn Rochdale by-election into vote on Starmer’s Israel stance

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Galloway attempts to turn Rochdale by-election into vote on Starmer’s Israel stance

Campaign leaflet given out by Galloway in Greater Manchester town includes inflammatory claim that Labour leader Keir Starmer is 'in the pocket of Israel'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

File photo dated 07/04/21 of George Galloway during the launch of the Alliance 4 Unity party's manifesto for the Scottish Parliamentary election, outside the reflexblue studio, Glasgow. Issue date: Tuesday May 4, 2021.
File photo dated 07/04/21 of George Galloway during the launch of the Alliance 4 Unity party's manifesto for the Scottish Parliamentary election, outside the reflexblue studio, Glasgow. Issue date: Tuesday May 4, 2021.

George Galloway is attempting to turn a by-election later this month in the town of Rochdale in Greater Manchester into a vote on the Labour Party’s stance on Israel.

The leader of the “anti-woke” Workers Party  – who was expelled from Labour in 2003 – has delivered thousands of campaign leaflets to voters in Rochdale claiming the by-election is a “straight choice between George who will fight for Palestine…. and Keir Starmer who will fight for Israel.”

In further inflammatory and contentious claims, the same leaflet also claims Starmer has “proven that he is in the pocket of Israel” and that when he stood as a candidate in the July 2021 by-election in Batley and Spen “George was just a few votes shy of winning.”

In actual fact, Galloway had finished in third place after the votes were counted in the West Yorkshire seat, some 5000 votes shy of the winner, Labour’s Kim Leadbetter.  

The former Respect Party leader had also tried a similar tactic in Batley as he now is in Rochade, attempting to entice Muslim voters into backing him as the “pro-Palestine candidate.”

Galloway’s latest campaign includes the suggestion on his leaflet that “the people of Gaza don’t have a vote in this election – you do.”

One source in Rochdale claimed to Jewish News:”Galloway’s leaflet is full of lies, lies and more lies.

“But what’s new there.”

George Galloway leaflet in Rochdale

The Rochade by-election has been called following the death of the local MP, Sir Tony Lloyd, in January 2024, with a general election also set to take place at some point later this year.Lloyd was last elected in 2019 with 24,475 votes, a 9,668 majority over the Conservative Party’s Atifa Shah, who came in second with 14,807 votes.

Labour will hope to retain the seat it has held since 2010, having selected its Lancashire group leader, Azhar Ali as the candidate. But Galloway is hoping to capitalise on claims that Labour support amongst Muslims has dipped in response to its stance on Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza.

A poll conducted by Survation this week for the group Labour Muslim Network was initially said to show an alarming dip in Muslim support for Starmer’s party.But the claim that Labour support in the community had halved was later proven to have been a misinterpretation of the figures.

The poll actually showed that Labour support amongst Muslims had dipped, from 86 per cent to 60 per cent – a figure that appeared to confirm that voters in the community were also concerned with issues away from Gaza.

Rob Ford, professor of political science at the University of Manchester, told the FT this week said polls since the October 7 Hamas terror atrocity in Israel have shown that as with the electorate as a whole, the cost of living, the NHS and the economy were all more likely than Gaza to be listed as top voting priorities among Muslim voters. 

George Galloway leaflet in Rochdale

Ahead of the February 29th by-election the Conservative Party, has selected former Man of Rochdale and local resident Paul Ellison as its hopeful, while the Liberal Democrats have selected former Manchester councillor Iain Donaldson to bid for the seat.

The Green Party and the Official Monster Raving Loony Party are also fielding candidates alongside several other independents.

Simon Danczuk, who previously held the seat for Labour, is also standing for Reform UK. 

Danczuk was first elected to the Commons as Rochdale MP at the 2010 general election and retained the seat for Labour at the 2015 general election.But, in December 2015, he was suspended by Labour following newspaper allegations he had exchanged explicit messages with a 17-year-old girl who had been seeking a job in his constituency office.

Danczuk apologised for ‘inappropriate’ behaviour, adding: “I was stupid and there’s no fool like an old fool.”

He was later barred from standing as Labour’s candidate in Rochdale at the 2017 general election.

Galloway famously became the MP for Bradford West for his Respect Party at a 2012 by-eelction, but was voted out at the general election in 2015.

He exploited unrest in the local Labour party in his campaign which was headlined by his anti-Israel stance.

But having failed to deliver for local people he was heavily defeated by Labour MP Naz Shah in the general election.

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