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George Galloway’s campaign chief was accused of trying to ‘coerce and intimidate’ Welsh councillors

02 Mar 2024 5 minute read
George Galloway celebrates his win in Rochdale with James Giles (L). Photo Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Martin Shipton

A London councillor who was at the centre of a row involving local politicians in Wales played a strategic role in George Galloway’s victory in the Rochdale by-election.

James Giles was pictured celebrating with the left-wing firebrand following the declaration of the result in the early hours of Friday morning.

But back in November he was accused of “coercing” and “intimidating” a number of Welsh councillors after he wrote to them seeking their views on the idea of a ceasefire in Gaza.

Mr Giles, who represents a residents’ group on Kingston upon Thames council, where he is leader of the opposition, in fact wrote to more than 19,000 councillors across the UK, asking them to add their names to an open letter to Rishi Sunak, Sir Keir Starmer and all MPs, suggesting they “do the right thing and call for an immediate ceasefire”.


Some Welsh councillors complained at the time about a sentence in the email they received from Mr Giles which read: ““We will … be publishing the names of those who have been invited to sign but chose not to, in the interest of accountability.”

One Welsh councillor said they feared that Jewish councillors would become the focus of harassment if they did not sign the open letter.

Carmarthenshire Labour county councillor Gary Robert Jones said: “If it was a polite request for support I would have responded, but I didn’t like the tone of it. Other councillors have reported the email to [the] council.”

Monmouthshire Labour councillor Rachel Garrick said: “I won’t be signing any letter that tries to intimidate people into signing it, no matter what the cause.”

Mr Giles later modified his position on publishing the names of those who refused to sign the open letter, stating on social media: “To clarify, and as should be obvious by virtue of the offer of anonymity to those who do sign, there is no intention of publishing the names of all 19,000 councillors from across the country in two separate lists – dependent on whether they have signed the letter.

“This would single out those who signed anonymously and remove that protection from party whips. Nor is there any intention to publish the names of councillors who actively refuse to sign the letter but object to their name being published.”


Subsequently he said he was “so proud” that 300 councillors “across the length and breadth of the UK” had signed the open letter.

In a joint statement with Kingston Tory councillor Jamal Chohan, with whom he drafted the open letter, Mr Giles said: “There is no intention to publish names of councillors that do not respond to our email, nor is there any intention to publish the names of any individuals against their will.

“We are proud of Britain’s democracy and respect the opinions of colleagues on all matters. An opinion cannot be inferred if no response is received.

“We would encourage any elected representatives that have been threatened to contact the police as this cannot be tolerated. We will continue our democratic duty to engage in debate.”

In the run-up to the Rochdale by-election, Mr Giles worked as a strategic campaigns consultant for Mr Galloway.


As the result was awaited in the early hours of Friday morning, Reform UK party leader Richard Tice alleged during an interview with the BBC that his candidate, ex-Labour MP Simon Danczuk, had been the victim of a death threat and that is team had been subject to “daily intimidation and slurs”.

He claimed that “menacing behaviour” had featured throughout the campaign and questioned the validity of the postal ballots returned during the contest.

Mr Tice added: “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.”

Asked by Nation.Cymru for his observations on Mr Tice’s comments, Mr Giles said: “If any candidate is intimidated or abused etc, they have an obligation to report it to the police.


During the by-election there were only two incidents that resulted in reports to the police – a death threat to Mr Danczuk [in connection with which a 23-year-old man has been arrested] and when three different men were caught on CCTV destroying our banners. Rather graciously in the circumstances, because they had no previous convictions we decided not to press charges against them on condition they paid for the banners they had destroyed – £200 each.

“There was certainly no intimidation on our part – that is not how we behave. We knew very quickly that George was heading for a comfortable victory. In fact I knew from day one of the campaign that George was going to win, and as canvassing progressed it became increasingly clear that would be the case.

“There are a lot of left-leaning, working class people who live in the constituency, and while it is true that George got the support of many Muslims, his appeal was broader than that, as the result of the by-election showed.

“People are very disillusioned with both main parties, and I certainly think George can hold the seat at the general election.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Andy Beckett has an interesting piece on Mr Moral Maze Michael Gove and his constant and continuing role in the mess the country is in…

What he does not point out is how central the BBC News Dept has been in helping Gove and Fat Shanks in trashing the UK…

1 month ago

Hardly a local authority giant !

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago

If anyone can shake up the corrupt, self serving echo chamber that is Westminster its Galloway. The level of panic amongst them highlighted by the response of Sunak and Starmer and the speed with which they sought to condemn.
Bring it on George.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

I’m looking forward to next Wednesday, it the speaker gives him the green light…

1 month ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

Yet he was prepared to vote Conservative simply because of his opposition to Scottish independence. He endorsed Nigel Farage when he set up the Brexit Party and got endorsements from Nick Griffin. I’m not defending the Westminster establishment but Galloway is just as self-serving as the rest of them.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago

If I lived in Rochdale then George would’ve had my vote.

1 month ago
Reply to  Richard Davies

If I was in Rochdale I would have voted for the independent candidate. Galloway is a grifter who is just as bigoted as the likes of Farage and Trump. The far left and the far right as both as bad as each other.

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