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George Galloway is predicted to Win a seat in the Rochdale By-Election

The far-left firebrand has campaigned heavily on Gaza and the Palestinian cause, arguing that it is a top issue for the people of Rochdale. 

Since Labour disowned Azar Ali for antisemitic remarks, George Galloway has become the bookies' favorite to win the Rochdale by-election. Currently, the odds are 4/7 in his favor.

Mr. Ali faced heavy criticism and accusations of racism for saying that Israel had allowed the October 7 Hamas assault to occur and then used it as a pretext for invading Gaza. The Daily Mail also reported that he had accused “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” of fueling criticism of a pro-Palestine MP.

So far in the campaign, Galloway, a one-time Labour and Respect Party MP, has focused on winning the votes of Rochdale’s Muslim population, which makes up around 20 percent of the electorate in the town. As leader of the Workers Party of Britain, he has pledged to “teach Labour a lesson.”.

The Workers Party of Britain is a far-left political party formed to “defend the achievements of the USSR, China, Cuba, etc.”. Their ten-point programme also includes pledges to withdraw from NATO and provide universal free access to public transport, water, sanitation, heating, electricity, post, telephone, and internet.

Galloway’s supporters include deputy leader of the Workers Party, Chris Williamson, who was suspended from the Labour Party for saying it had been “too apologetic” over the issue of anti-Semitism. He was also investigated by police last year for posting on X that “Israel has forfeited its right to exist.”.

Despite campaigning on an issue particularly close to Muslim voters, Galloway denies that he is causing division and is keen to point out other issues he would like to fix, such as maternity care, the NHS, and the economy.

He’s also extremely critical of Labour, stating, “The people who brought division to Rochdale are Labour. The people who covered up the grooming gangs were the Labour Party. The people who pulled their candidate because of antisemitism were Labour.”

In the past, Galloway has caused controversy by working for Russian-state propaganda TV and radio shows such as Sputnik and RT, as well as for Iranian-run Press TV. A talk radio show he hosted until 2019 was canceled after Galloway made anti-Semitic remarks on Twitter. 

According to a Twitter post by Galloway, two-thirds of Israelis who died on October 7 were military personnel, while one third were killed by Israel's armed forces.

According to polls, Ali is the second favorite to win in Rochdale. If he does win, then Labour will remove the whip, and he will have to sit as an independent MP.

So, what does it mean for Rochdale’s identity that the two favorite candidates to win have a history of making anti-Semitic remarks?

Rochdale is a relatively poor part of the country, with 28 percent of children living in poverty and gross household income averaging £34,025. According to Electoral Calculus, the average voter in Rochdale is economically left-wing and socially conservative. It’s easy to imagine that such voters would resonate with Galloway’s socialist economic ideas combined with a rejection of “woke identity politics.”.

The influence of hard-line Islam, however, cannot be ignored in this by-election. In the 2010s, there were concerns that extremist ideologies such as Wahhabism and Salafism were being imported from the Gulf. Fears only grew after Islamic State followers murdered a retired imam in Rochdale.

In recent history, Rochdale has also witnessed the horror of pedophile grooming gangs from 2004 to 2014, resulting in the conviction of nine British Asian men in 2012 for sexually abusing white working-class girls in the town. Greater Manchester Police and Labour-run Rochdale Council were judged in a report last year to have been negligent in their responsibilities, failing to protect the girls.

Despite mainly targeting Asian voters, Galloway has also sought to weaponize the grooming gangs scandal against Labour in an attempt to appeal to disenfranchised white voters.

With such a recent history of poverty, violent extremism, sexual abuse, and institutional neglect, it’s not hard to understand why some voters would see the appeal of a radical firebrand. Whether voters are fully aware, however, of Galloway’s anti-Semitism is unclear. If voters are aware yet endorse him anyway, then it will send a disturbing message to Britain’s Jewish community, which is currently experiencing record-high levels of anti-Semitic hate.

Should Galloway win the seat, he has said that he would support an “immediate and complete ceasefire, followed by Israeli withdrawal from the territory.”. More specifically, he has argued that the world should “impose a solution on Israel.”.

If Galloway wins the Rochdale seat, it will show that his message resonates strongly with poorer voters who feel that their grievances have not been addressed. Unless the Labour Party can appeal to these disgruntled working-class voters, they may end up losing them to the far left.

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