Huge victory for George Galloway in Rochdale by-election – but what does it mean?

All smiles: George Galloway is heading back to Parliament. Then his REAL work will begin.

George Galloway has given the UK’s Establishment political parties a bloody nose in the Rochdale by-election. He cruised to victory with almost twice as many votes as his closest opponent – who was an Independent.

With 12,335 votes, he was more than three times more popular than Conservative Paul Ellison (3,731) and more than four times more popular that Azhar Ali (2,402), who had been Labour’s candidate until the party dropped him over allegedly anti-Semitic remarks.

Labour has already claimed it would have won if that party had fielded a candidate (that it could support). Considering what happened with the candidate it did offer, those words ring hollow.

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As with all the other recent by-elections, turnout was lower than at a general elections so the win would have had little meaning… if it had been by one of the major parties. For any of them, the number of votes they received would have been disastrous.

But because Mr Galloway was standing for a smaller political organisation – the Worker’s Party – and because he made his campaign about supporting Palestinian freedom in the Israel/Gaza conflict, this result represents a major change in politics and a resounding shock for the Establishment parties.

12,335 votes from a standing start is unprecedented. It represents only almost 16 per cent of the 77,782 electorate in Rochdale – but that’s more or less equal to the proportion of the electorate that the victors have had in all the other recent by-elections. This is a huge achievement for a new political party.

Also to be taken into account is the fact that second place went to an Independent – David Tully – with 6,638 votes, or almost nine per cent of the electorate.

Let’s break with This Site’s usual tradition and discuss what this means in terms of turnout. I don’t usually like discussing this because with the number of people voting changing radically between elections I don’t see it as a valid way of following trends – but I think we should note the following:

Between them, Messrs Galloway and Tully took a whopping 61 per cent of votes cast (39.7 per cent and 21.3 per cent respectively). That’s an overwhelming swing away from the Establishment parties and their tired, selfish, corrupt politics.

Going back to measuring the vote as a proportion of the electorate, Conservative candidate Paul Ellison’s 3,731 votes represents nearly five per cent of the electorate – a fall of 11,076 from the 14,07 polled by fellow Tory Atifa Shah in 2019. That’s an 11 per cent drop.

Azhar Ali, shorn of the campaigning support of the Labour Party by his remarks on the Israel/Gaza conflict, still managed to get 2,402 votes – three per cent of the electorate. That’s a drop of a massive 28.4 per cent of the electorate from the 24,475 votes Labour’s Tony Lloyd had in 2019.

Even the Green vote halved, with Guy Otten gaining only 436 votes in comparison with Sarah Croke’s 986 in 2019 (that’s 0.6 per cent and 1,3 per cent of the electorate respectively).

Only the Liberal Democrats managed to keep a significant amount of their voter base – and that’s probably because they were starting from such a low position. Iain Donaldson received 2,164 votes, which is a respectable by-election proportion of the 3,312 votes Andy Kelly had in 2019 (2.8 per cent and 4.3 per cent of the electorate respectively).

Finally, let’s mention “creepy sex pest” (as described on Another Angry Voice) Simon Danczuk, who used to be Labour’s MP for Rochdale before being thrown out of the party for sending sexually explicit texts to a 17-year-old girl.

As the Reform Party candidate, he had 1,968 votes (2.5 per cent of the electorate) – a far cry from the 20,961 (27 per cent) he received as Labour’s candidate in 2015.

In his victory speech, Mr Galloway made it clear that he intends to attack Keir Starmer’s “misnamed” Labour Party from the left:

And Labour – front-runner to win the next general election though it is – is vulnerable, as pointed out by Another Angry Voice:

Labour are almost certain to win the next election because people are so sick and tired of the Tories after 14 dreadful years of austerity ruination, corruption, and chaos. However this by-election result shows that they can actually be vulnerable from the left.

If the Green Party, small left-wing parties, and socialists in exile from Starmer’s right-wing Labour Party play their cards right they can disrupt the hegemony, win target seats and representation in parliament, and make the first steps towards reshaping the future of Britain’s political landscape.

Some victories are easier to envisage than others. It would be surprising if Jeremy Corbyn didn’t retain his Islington seat were he to run as an independent, and the Greens would be bitterly disappointed if they couldn’t hold Brighton Pavilion and take Bristol West from the Labour’s dreadful incumbent Thangam Debbonaire. But wouldn’t it be incredible if the left unified behind the Jewish anti-racism campaigner Andrew Feinstein in Holborn and St. Pancras to take Keir Starmer’s seat and dethrone the guy who stole the Labour leadership with an outrageous pack of lies?

Politics has changed – overnight. For those of us who want to bring integrity to Parliament – possibly for the first time – we at last have it all to play for.

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  1. El Dee March 1, 2024 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    In such an election, with the likely winning candidate being disavowed, then you’d expect that another mainstream party might benefit LibDems for example. After all the Labour voters would have no stomach for voting Tory and this leaves the nearest to their ideology being LD. But rather than do that they vote, en masse, for George Galloway (I think the man got the vote more than the party)

    The only reason I can believe why so many put their faith in him is due to his staunch opposition to the genocide underway in Gaza. This SHOULD tell the main parties something. Of course both are quick to deny. Starmer rubbishes the victory as being only due to him disavowing their candidate – possibly true as he ALSO had strong views on Gaza but his tipped over into conspiracy theory territory. And Sunak is talking up democracy being hijacked or some such nonsense which, in conjunction with the proposals for banning protestors (and possibly reporters) getting anywhere near politicians really makes me worry that he will attempt to limit who can stand for election a la Russian Federation and with the same intended results. Even more worrying is that I don’t think Labour would stand against this type of action..

  2. Lydia March 2, 2024 at 6:02 am - Reply

    You wrote 71-year-old girl

    • Mike Sivier March 2, 2024 at 4:10 pm - Reply

      Typo. I meant 17-year-old. Thanks for the heads-up, though – I’ve fixed it now.

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