Allegations of threats, intimidation and controversy: What went on in the Rochdale by-election?

Political maverick George Galloway has swept to victory in the Rochdale by-election, winning almost 40% of the vote in a contest mired in controversy and dominated by the Gaza conflict.

Labour had been expected to win the by-election triggered by the death of Labour MP Tony Lloyd, but its campaign was thrown into disarray by a leaked recording of Azhar Ali’s inflammatory remarks about Israel.

He was later dropped by the party, leading to the 69-year-old Scot becoming the firm favourite for the contest, which he used to capitalise on the strength of feeling on the Gaza war among the seat’s many Muslim voters.

But the campaign was beset by controversy and claims of intimidation and divisive tactics.

Reform UK candidate Simon Danczuk during his campaign in the Rochdale by-election. Credit: PA Images

Reform UK candidate, former Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, said there were “lots of examples of intimidation” during the campaign.

He told Times Radio: “We spent a lot of time dealing with intimidation and significant problems that clearly came from Galloway’s supporters.”

Mr Danczuk, who once represented the seat for Labour but was barred from standing for the party in 2017 after he admitted sending “inappropriate” messages to a 17-year-old girl, secured a little more than 6% of the vote, coming sixth behind Mr Ali, the former Labour candidate.

Reform UK’s leader Richard Tice claimed his candidate had received a death threat during the campaign and said his party’s campaign team had been subject to “daily intimidation and slurs”.

Reform UK’s leader Richard Tice has questioned the validity of the postal ballots returned during the contest. Credit: PA Images

Accusations continued after polls closed, with Mr Tice alleging “menacing behaviour” had featured throughout the campaign and questioning the validity of the postal ballots returned during the contest.

He said: “This by-election and result should act as a serious wake-up call to those in power and indeed to the entire electorate.

“We are supposed to be a beacon of democracy, this shameful contest has been more characteristic of a failed state.”

Independent candidate William Howarth agreed that there had been an “element of intimidation” during the campaign.

Speaking during a visit to Scotland Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters: “It was very concerning to see the reports of intimidation through the by-election, and by all accounts one of the most divisive campaigns that we’ve seen in recent times."

In a press conference Mr Sunak he said it was "beyond horrifying" voters had elected "a candidate who dismisses the horror of what happened on Oct 7, who glorifies Hezbollah and is endorsed by Nick Griffin, the racist former leader of the BNP."

Conservative former minister Sir Sajid Javid had earlier tweeted: “An awful by-election outcome for my home town of Rochdale and the country.

“Exceptional circumstances, and a very low turnout. But still a vote for hateful, toxic and divisive politics. Bigger lessons must be learned.”

George Galloway holds a rally at his Rochdale Headquarters after being declared winner of the Rochdale by-election. Credit: PA Images

Mr Galloway denied his supporters had engaged in any intimidation, and claimed on Sky News that Mr Tice had invited him to be a Reform UK candidate in a recent by-election.

He added that he hoped he would be introduced to the Commons by Conservative former minister Sir David Davis and the former Labour leader, and now independent MP, Jeremy Corbyn.

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