George Galloway vows to take Angela Rayner’s seaton March 4, 2024 at 9:56 pm

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The Workers Party of Britain leader pledges his party will boot out Labour MPs in the general election.

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George Galloway has said he wants to oust Labour’s deputy leader from Parliament, as he began work as an MP.

The Workers Party of Britain leader said his party could overturn Angela Rayner’s majority in her Ashton-under-Lyne constituency at the next election.

He was sworn in as an MP, following his by-election win last week.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, he listed more areas with large Muslim populations and vowed to “win or make sure that Keir Starmer doesn’t win”.

He named the Labour deputy leader’s seat as a target, saying: “There’s at least 15,000 supporters of my point of view in her constituency.”

Mr Galloway was expelled from the Labour party in 2003 over his views on the Iraq war and said his Rochdale win was “for Gaza”.

Following his swearing-in ceremony, the 69-year-old listed a number of local priorities, before telling reporters his first words in Parliament would be about Gaza, and added he hoped he’d get a chance to speak at this week’s PMQs.

When asked by the BBC if Hamas, which is proscribed as a terrorist group by the UK, US, Israel and several other countries, should be allowed to run Gaza, he responded the question was “dripping with imperial condescension” and queried whether the UK or the BBC should decide who runs Gaza instead.

“I would not myself have voted for Hamas – I am an Arafat man and have been since the 1970s – but the people picked Hamas,” he said, adding that “no good can come” from foreign countries meddling in others’ affairs.

He later responded to questions about Israel, saying “Israel exists, it’s not up to me” but that “no state has the right to exist – not the Soviet Union, not Czechoslovakia, not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” and that he supported the Oslo Agreement but was “still waiting for a Palestinian state”.

During his initial speech, Mr Galloway went on to invoke the Holocaust, saying: “There’s a genocide going on….If the by-election had been in February of 1940 or 41, would anyone seriously have condemned me for putting the crimes of the Holocaust at the centre of my election campaign?”

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism lists “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” among its examples.

The IHRA definition is intended to show how certain ways of speaking target Jewish people, and includes attacks on the state of Israel, over and above criticism that would be levelled at any other country.

Sworn in

Earlier, Mr Galloway had struck a defensive note as he arrived at Westminster, saying: “I’ve always loved the building – the people in it not quite so much.”

Mirroring that view, Conservative minister Bim Afolami told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “We’re going to have to endure him and that is really the fault of the Labour party.”

Mr Galloway was sworn in by the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle before business got under way in the House of Commons.

He was escorted by the Father of the House Peter Bottomley and Neale Hanvey, the Westminster Leader of the Alba Party.

Mr Galloway won a clear victory in Thursday’s by-election, which had seen Labour withdraw support for candidate Azhar Ali over remarks widely alleged to be antisemitic.

Mainstream parties were beaten into third place after a chaotic campaign, sparked by the death of Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd, with independent and local businessman Dave Tully taking second place.

Mr Galloway has previously been an MP for Labour until 2003. He then sat in the Commons as an independent and Respect Party MP for three constituencies between 2003 and 2015.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Galloway only won in Rochdale because Labour withdrew support from its own candidate about a fortnight before polling day.

Sir Keir apologised to voters for the decision, which forced Labour to effectively withdraw from the race due to electoral law, the but said it was “the right decision”.

Mr Galloway has long campaigned for causes in the Middle East and the first words of his victory speech in Rochdale were “Keir Starmer: This is for Gaza”.

Following his win, the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said it was “extremely concerned” by Mr Galloway’s victory, accusing him of having an “atrocious record of baiting the Jewish community”, including calling for Bradford, when he was an MP there, to be declared an “Israel-free zone”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “very concerned” at reports of intimidation during what he labelled “one of the most divisive campaigns we’ve seen in recent times”.

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