George Galloway’s by-election rival who has now joined him for the local elections

Date published: 09 April 2024

An unlikely alliance has formed between Rochdale MP George Galloway and one of his by-election rivals from February.

Billy Howarth has been named as a candidate flying the Workers Party banner come the local elections on 2 May. After standing against Mr Galloway at the end of February to become the next MP for the borough, Billy has now defected to the Workers Party after meeting with the by-election winner and being convinced by his desire to improve the area.

The 44-year-old will be standing for election in the Balderstone and Kirkholt ward, the seat up for grabs is currently held by Labour’s Councillor Daniel Meredith, the cabinet’s portfolio holder for regeneration and housing.

When asked why he joined the Workers Party, Billy said: “I have shocked a lot of people. The reasons for it are because when he [Galloway] was elected, he was going to get a visit from me regarding the issues I stood on (the grooming gang victims justice and damp and mould problems in homes).

“I got an appointment and he actually looked at it and is willing to take it on. That put me on side and now I’m fighting with him.

“I was critical of him before the election because he was about Gaza and I was about Rochdale. This has changed now because his first speech in Parliament was about Rochdale issues.”

Billy, who will be on the ballot paper as William Howarth, has been fighting for justice for the victims of the Rochdale grooming gangs for over a decade, and even started Parents Against Grooming UK back in 2012. His main mission is to see families of victims get justice, and he said that nothing will change now he is part of the Workers Party.

His other key missions are to improve the lives of people suffering with damp and mould problems in social housing and improve public safety around the ward he is standing in, a place he was born and raised. After only getting 523 votes in the by-election on 29 February, Billy explained that he has learned lessons from that campaign, and always planned on standing in the local elections come May.

“That by-election was all about seeing how it worked,” he said. “I knew I didn’t stand much of a chance of winning.

“I didn’t expect George Galloway or David Tully to do as well as they did. This time I am going to focus on what I am doing for the area rather than what other candidates are doing and saying.

“I got a bit caught up in that during the by-election.”

He said that there is nothing for young people to do in the Balderstone and Kirkholt area, which is something he is hoping to change. He also believes more CCTV should be brought into Balderstone Park where he claims there are regular issues with antisocial behaviour.

Billy is one of three by-election candidates standing in the local elections, Paul Ellison and Iain Donaldson are both standing for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats respectively.

George Lythgoe, Local Democracy Reporter

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