George Galloway, Britain’s Wildest and Most Controversial Lawmaker, Wins Election

Phil Noble/Reuters
Phil Noble/Reuters

George Galloway, a controversial and outspoken critic of Israel and U.S. foreign policy, is set to return to to British Parliament after winning by-election Thursday night which he hailed as a victory “for Gaza.”

The veteran campaigner, who once served in the U.K.’s Parliament as a Labour lawmaker before his expulsion from the party over his opposition to the Iraq war, used his speech after winning nearly 40 percent of the vote in the Rochdale constituency to attack the incumbent Labour leader, Keir Starmer. “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 Gaza, in the Gaza Strip,” Galloway said.

British MP George Galloway Loves to Hate the USA

The by-election in northwest England had been triggered by the January death of the incumbent Labour lawmaker Tony Lloyd. Galloway repeated a strategy of appealing to Muslim voters in the ensuing race, putting the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas at the heart of his campaign. In campaign materials, Galloway explicitly attacked Starmer for his support for “Israel’s genocide in Gaza.”

The Middle East conflict also figured prominently for Azhar Ali, the candidate who Labour put forward for the race and ultimately disavowed after he was recorded suggesting that Israel had allowed Hamas’ Oct. 7 to take place as the massacre “gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want.” Ali later apologized for the “deeply offensive” remarks as “ignorant and false.”

Galloway also defeated Simon Danczuk, another former Labour lawmaker who represented Rochdale until 2017. The last two years of his time representing the area were spent as an independent after he was suspended from the party for sending explicit messages to a 17-year-old girl.

Galloway said he hopes his Workers Party of Britain can now replicate his success around the country. The party, which he has led since its formation in late 2019, calls for an “end to imperialist wars and financial domination, starting with withdrawal from NATO.”

Labour, which is widely expected to win an upcoming general election this year, acknowledged it had failed the people of Rochdale and attacked Galloway as being solely “interested in stoking fear and division.” “As an MP he will be a damaging force in our communities and public life,” a spokesperson for the party told The Independent.

The 69-year-old Scot’s return to Westminster begins the latest chapter in a highly controversial career in public life.

Initially elected as a Labour Memeber of Parliament (MP) in Scotland in 1987, Galloway was criticized in 1994 for saying to Iraq’s then-dictator Saddam Hussein: “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.”

He was later booted from the Labour Party under Tony Blair in 2003 for his criticisms of the Iraq war. Galloway was questioned by the U.S. Senate two years later in which he was accused of having profited from a U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq—an investigation which he dismissed as the “mother of all smokescreens” to take attention away from the “pack of lies” used to justify the invasion.

His anti-Israel position has also created controversy years before his latest election race. He was criticized in 2013 for walking out of a debate at Oxford University when he learned his opponent held Israeli citizenship. A year later, while serving as an MP for the city of Bradford—which has a large Muslim population—he publicly stated: “We have declared Bradford an Israel-free zone,” adding: “We reject this illegal, barbarous, savage state that calls itself Israel. And you have to do the same.”

Galloway’s media career has also generated uproar in recent years. He’s been criticized for working with Russia’s state-run RT network and Iran’s state-funded Press TV. In 2019, he was fired from a British radio station after posting a tweet celebrating Liverpool’s Champions League victory over Tottenham Hotspur—a London soccer team with deep ties to its local Jewish community—with the phrase: “No #Israel flags on the Cup!”

His departure came after a British media regulator censured the station for a broadcast in which Galloway expressed doubt on Russia’s culpability for the Novichok poisonings of the Skripals in Salisbury. Galloway later threatened to sue Twitter after the platform labeled his account “Russian state-affiliated media” in 2022 while his radio show was being broadcast on Russia’s state-owned Sputnik service.

In February of that year, shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he posted on the site: “Y’all said #Russia was about to invade #Ukraine. I told you it wasn’t. You were wrong. I was right. Again.”

But for Britons who aren’t politically interested in geopolitical issues, Galloway is perhaps best known for a bizarre appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006 in which he pretended to be a cat and mimed lapping up milk out of the hands of actress Rula Lenska.

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