Rochdale by-election: Keir Starmer apologizes to voters after George Galloway's win

Video explanation,

The Labor leader says he will only field “first-class candidates” in the next general election

Sir Keir Starmer has apologized to voters in Rochdale for disavowing Labour's by-election candidate, but insisted it was the “right decision”.

George Galloway won the election, while the suspended Labor Party candidate, Azhar Ali, came in fourth place by a large margin.

Galloway described the result as Sir Keir's “worst nightmare”.

The Labor leader said Galloway only won because Labor withdrew its support for Mr Ali over what were widely alleged to be anti-Semitic comments.

Independent candidate David Tully – a local businessman – came in a surprise second place, ahead of the Conservatives in third place.

In his victory speech, Galloway, the UK Labor leader, described Sir Keir and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as “two cheeks of the same ass, both on the mend and really hit the ground running tonight here in Rochdale”.

More about the by-election in Rochdale

Galloway has long focused on issues related to the Middle East, including Palestinian rights, and said his victory was “for Gaza.”

The Labor leader warned that his party would “pay a heavy price” for “enabling, encouraging and covering up the disaster” in the region.

Speaking after the defeat, Sir Keir said: “I regret that we have had to withdraw our candidate and apologize to voters in Rochdale.

“I made that decision. It was the right decision.”

He promised that Labor would field a “first-class, united candidate” to run in the general election expected later this year.

Mr Sunak said the Rochdale contest was “one of the most divisive campaigns we have seen in recent times” but the Conservatives “ran a really positive campaign”.

Video explanation,

Orange confetti was thrown at George Galloway by Just Stop Oil campaigner Reverend Mark Coleman as he gave his victory speech in Rochdale.

The by-election was sparked by the death of Labor MP Sir Tony Lloyd, who held the seat by a majority of nearly 10,000 votes.

Labor had been expected to win, but their campaign was thrown into turmoil when the Daily Mail published comments by their candidate, Mr Ali, who is widely seen as an anti-Semite.

Mr. Ali apologized for his statements, but the party decided to withdraw its support and ordered its members to stop campaigning for him.

The conflict between Israel and Gaza featured heavily in the by-election, with Mr Galloway telling voters in an election leaflet: “The people of Gaza do not have the right to vote in this election, you have a voice.”

The Labor Party is divided over how to respond to the war, and last year several MPs resigned from their positions in order to vote for an immediate ceasefire.

Sir John Curtis, a veteran political pollster, told the BBC that the Rochdale result would intensify pressure on Sir Keir to toughen Labour's position on Israel.

However, he expressed doubt that there would be much influence on the outcome of the general election, because “it is unlikely that anyone else would have the ability to exploit this issue.” [the war in Gaza] In the way that Mr. Galloway is uniquely able to do.”

Mr Tully, who polled 6,638 votes, is well known in Rochdale because he runs a car repair business and is involved with the town's rugby club.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I feel like I've turned the heads of people who don't normally vote because nothing really changes with politics and the mainstream parties.”

The UK Reform Party performed well in recent by-elections, coming third in both Wellingborough and Kingswood, but their candidate in Rochdale, the city's former Labor MP Simon Danczuk, was beaten to sixth place with 1,968 votes.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said it was “deeply concerned” by Mr Galloway’s victory, saying he had a “terrible record of catfishing the Jewish community”, including calling for Bradford, when he was an MP there, to be declared an “Israel-free state”. region”.

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