Update: George Galloway was declared the winner when results were announced in the early hours of Friday.

If everything had gone to plan, Britain’s opposition Labour Party, which is riding high in opinion polls, would be confident of sweeping to victory on Thursday in a special election (known as a by-election in Britain) for the parliamentary district of Rochdale, north of Manchester.

Instead, the contest has become a source of acute embarrassment to the party, and whoever comes out on top when results are announced early Friday morning won’t represent Labour.

Earlier this month the party had to disown its candidate over antisemitic remarks he made, but it was too late to replace him on the ballot. In the aftermath of that debacle the election in Rochdale has become emblematic of the anger that has swept through British politics over the war in Gaza.

With a general election looming, internal divisions over the conflict in the Middle East have caused tensions within both the Labour Party and the governing Conservatives.

And, worse for Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer, the favorite to win in Rochdale is George Galloway, according to oddsmakers. He is a veteran left-wing firebrand who was kicked out of the Labour Party more than two decades ago, and would relish wreaking his revenge in Rochdale.

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