Left-wing firebrand wins UK by-election dominated by Israel-Hamas war
Friday, March 01, 2024       15:49 WIB

Rochdale, United Kingdom, March 1, 2024 (AFP)
Controversial left-wing firebrand George Galloway was elected to the UK parliament on Friday after tapping into anger over the Israel-Hamas war in a chaotic by-election marred by anti-Semitism allegations.
Galloway, 69, first became an MP in 1987 and will return to the House of Commons for the first time since 2015 after winning the seat of Rochdale, in the north of England, by nearly 6,000 votes.
The turbulent vote saw the main opposition Labour party withdraw its candidate, Azhar Ali, after he touted a conspiracy theory that Israel had allowed Hamas to carry out its deadly attack on October 7.
Galloway, long accused by critics of stoking community tensions, put the Gaza conflict front and centre of his campaign in Rochdale, which has a 30 percent Muslim population.
"Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza," Galloway, leader of the fringe Workers Party of Great Britain, said in his victory speech, referring to the Labour party's leader.
"You have paid, and you will pay, a high price for the role that you have played in enabling, encouraging and covering for the catastrophe presently going on in occupied Palestine in the Gaza Strip," he added.
The Scottish-born Galloway, nicknamed "Gorgeous George", has had a long and chequered political career, in which he has represented several parties, including Labour.
He sparked controversy in the 1990s when he visited then-Iraq leader Saddam Hussein, telling him: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.
Galloway gained international notoriety in 2005 when he was called to testify over Iraq in the US Senate. He had earlier been expelled from Labour over his stance on the war.
His majority of 5,697 votes in Rochdale amounted to 18.3 percent of the total, on a turnout of 39.7 percent.
The surprise runner-up was David Tully, a local businessman and independent candidate. It is very rare for none of the main parties to finish in first and second place.
The by-election was triggered by the death of veteran Labour MP Tony Lloyd.
- 'Inflammatory' -
A Labour spokesperson said: "We deeply regret that the Labour party was unable to field a candidate in this by-election and apologise to the people of Rochdale. George Galloway only won because Labour did not stand.
"Rochdale deserved the chance to vote for an MP that would bring communities together and deliver for working people. George Galloway is only interested in stoking fear and division.
"As an MP he will be a damaging force in our communities and public life," the spokesperson added.
Galloway last represented a seat in Bradford in the north of England from 2012 to 2015. Between 2005 and 2010 he was a Respect Party MP for a constituency in east London.
A spokesperson for the charity Campaign Against Antisemitism said Galloway has "an atrocious record of baiting the Jewish community".
"Given his historic inflammatory rhetoric and the current situation faced by the Jewish community in this country, we are extremely concerned by how he may use the platform of the House of Commons in the remaining months of this parliament."
Labour are well ahead of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's ruling Conservatives in opinion polls ahead of a general election due later this year.

Sumber : AFP