Labour says Galloway seeks ‘division, intimidation and chaos’ with pro-Palestine campaign

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Labour says Galloway seeks ‘division, intimidation and chaos’ with pro-Palestine campaign

Keir Starmer spokesperson condemns George Galloway's 'one man self-serving circus' after he attempts to turn Rochdale By-Election into referendum on Labour's Israel stance

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

George Galloway launches Rochdale By-Election campaign in front of Palestinian flag
George Galloway launches Rochdale By-Election campaign in front of Palestinian flag

Labour have accused George Galloway of attempting to create “division, intimidation and chaos” at the forthcoming Rochdale by-election over his attempt to claim it represents a chance for voters to cast their verdict on Keir Starmer’s stance in Israel.

Launching his campaign in the Greater Manchester seat this week, ahead of the February 29th poll, Galloway repeated a tactic used by him in previous elections by framing himself as the pro-Palestinian candidate.

Rochdale has a sizeable Muslim community, the 18th largest in the UK according to the Commons library, who were immediately targeted by the former Respect Party leader with a leaflet campaign Galloway attempts to turn Rochdale by-election into vote on Starmer’s Israel stance claiming the by-election was  “straight choice between George who will fight for Palestine…. and Keir Starmer who will fight for Israel.”

Asked to comment on these claims, Keir Starmer’s spokesperson told Jewish News:”The last thing Rochdale needs is division, intimidation and chaos that comes with George Galloway’s one man self-serving circus.”

George Galloway leaflet in Rochdale

The spokesperson also said Labour had there own “excellent” candidate  in the Lancashire Group leader Azhar Ali

Launching his campaign in the town, with a Palestinian flag draped in front of him  Galloway, now leader of the “anti woke” Workers Party of Britain boasted “for obvious reasons”  he had “mass support amongst the Muslim population.”

He was also filmed at another meeting leading a chant amongst locals of “We are all Palestinians.”
Other groups, closely associated with the veteran politician, circulated videos online suggesting Labour voters had turned against the party over Starmer’s stance on Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza.

Citing the impoverished state of the town, he blamed the Labour council, rather than the Conservative government for Rochdale’s problems.

He used similar tactics in the 2021 Batley and Spen by-election, but ending up trailing in third place once votes were counted, behind the victorious Labour candidate who narrowly beat her Conservative challenger.

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.

Closer analysis of the poll also showed Muslim voters main concerns, like the rest of the country, where with issues around the economy and the cost of living crisis.  

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. The Rochdale election was 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.

A Labour source told Jewish News that the threat from Galloway, at a by-election where turnout would be lower than at a general election, was not being under estimated.

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