George Galloway is now the favourite to win Rochdale by-election, say bookies, after Labour denounces candidate

Date published: 20 February 2024

Outspoken former MP George Galloway, 69, has become the bookies’ favourite to win the Rochdale parliamentary by-election, following Labour’s withdrawal of support for its candidate, Azhar Ali.

Labour withdrew support for Ali on 12 February, after comments he made about the 7 October terrorist attack on Israel were published, just days after the Greens denounced their own candidate, Guy Otten, for historic posts referring to the Muslim faith and Gaza conflict.

Whilst Labour’s candidate has been denounced for his controversial comments, Galloway too is not without his own controversies, including allegations of antisemitism, accusations of defending Saddam Hussein, and being an “apologist for Putin’s war in Ukraine.”

He was also briefly suspended as an MP following an inquiry into a charity he set up.

In 2007, Galloway was suspended for 18 days after the House of Commons’ standards and privileges committee criticised him over the transparency of his charity, the Mariam Appeal.

The Mariam Appeal was a fund set up by Galloway in 1998 to raise money for a four-year-old Iraqi girl with leukaemia but became ‘a political vehicle’ for demanding the lifting of sanctions on Iraq.

According to The Guardian, the suspension was recommended after a “lengthy” investigation into the now-defunct charity.

It reported he “failed to register an interest and for ‘excessive’ use of taxpayer-funded facilities for the Mariam Appeal, and recommended his suspension for failing to supervise funding from Saddam Hussein's former regime and for failing to provide evidence to the inquiry itself.”

The inquiry was launched in 2003, but was suspended for over two years during Galloway’s successful libel action against the Daily Telegraph, which had alleged he was in the pay of Saddam Hussein. He was awarded £150,000 in damages after the High Court ruled the Telegraph had defamed him.

In 2005, Galloway also strongly denied allegations by the US Senate in connection with the United Nations’ Oil-for-Food Programme, after claims he profited from illicit oil deals with Saddam Hussein.

Former MP Galloway, who lost his last parliamentary seat in 2015 over the issue of Palestine – of which he is a prominent supporter, is standing for the Workers Party of Britain, which he is leader of.

He has been vocal about Labour’s failure to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and is understood to have focused his election campaign in the predominantly Muslim areas of Rochdale.

A minor political party, the Workers Party of Britain was formed to "defend the achievements of the USSR, China, Cuba, etc." with Galloway also having hosted a radio show broadcast from Russia’s Radio Sputnik, which has been frequently described as an outlet for Russian propaganda.

The former Labour MP, who was expelled in 2003 after bringing the party into disrepute over his opposition to the Global War on Terrorism, has previously been accused of antisemitism for his views about Israel, having been sacked as a talkRADIO host after an allegedly antisemitic tweet made by Galloway in 2019.

Galloway’s cancelled talkRADIO show, the Mother of All Talk Shows, then moved to Radio Sputnik – the radio and digital arm of the Kremlin-controlled Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) – until March 2022, with many countries worldwide cutting off Russian state media after the invasion of Ukraine.

The Mother of All Talk Shows is now run from Galloway’s YouTube channel.

Prior to this, Galloway presented two chatshows on Press TV, a 24-hour news channel funded by the Iranian government which were criticised in 2009 by regulator Ofcom for breaking impartiality rules.

According to The Guardian, Galloway had labelled Israel’s actions in the Gaza conflict as “war crimes” and an “apartheid-style occupation.” Ofcom agreed that whilst both shows were “clearly branded around his personality and views,” they were biased against Israel and had failed to give “due weight” to the Israeli viewpoint.

In November 2023, Galloway – who was also previously an MP for the Respect Party, which he then led from 2013 until its dissolution three years later – tweeted about the Hamas terrorist attack of 7 October, claiming that initial claims of rape and dead babies had, respectively, been “dropped” and “downscaled, adding that “two-thirds of the Israelis killed were military personnel.”

He wrote: “The foul allegations of rape have been dropped by the Israeli government. The forty beheaded babies has been downscaled to one dead baby, not beheaded, and killed by persons unknown.

“Two thirds of Israelis killed on October 7 were military personnel. The killers of the remaining one third are definitively revealed to have been in part the Israeli armed forces themselves. Those with influence who spread the propaganda to the contrary stand exposed as War Criminals and now much blood stains their character for ever. It is a spot which will not out.”




Whilst Galloway has been public over his hatred of Israel and support for Palestine – once refusing to debate with an Israeli student at Oxford University – he has previously said his hatred of Israel is ‘anti-Zionist, not antisemitic.’

Galloway threw his hat into the ring for Rochdale in January to “teach Labour and Keir Starmer a lesson” with bookmakers believing the Workers Party could now win their first electoral seat this month.

George Galloway and the Workers Party have both been approached for comment.



According to the polls, Labour remains the second-place favourite to win. If Ali is elected, Labour will immediately withdraw the whip and Ali will sit as an independent MP.

Historically, the Rochdale seat has largely swung between Labour and Liberal/Liberal Democrats, but in the most recent general elections, the Conservative party has come in second behind Labour.

With Labour having shot itself in the foot, the bookies' say the Lib Dems are now third favourites to be elected, closely followed by the Conservatives, who last held the Rochdale seat in 1951, and Reform UK, who have opted for former Labour MP Simon Danczuk, another controversial candidate.

Danczuk, 57, represented Rochdale for seven years between 2010 and 2017. He was suspended from the Labour party in 2015 after sending explicit text messages to a teenage girl, standing out the rest of his term as an independent. He stood in the 2017 general election as an independent, but lost his deposit after receiving 1.8% of the vote.

The Conservatives have selected former Man of Rochdale and community champion Paul Ellison, 41, who is a well-known local volunteer and businessman, has helped Rochdale reach national recognition in RHS In Bloom awards.

Four independent candidates round off the hopefuls: climate change activist Mark Coleman, Parents Against Grooming founder William Howarth, and two local businessmen, Michael Howarth and David Tully.

Candidates’ election pitches can be read on the electoral page of Rochdale Online.

The Rochdale by-election will be held on 29 February.

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