BLACKBURN Tory turned independent councillor Altaf 'Tiger' Patel's campaign for re-election has received an unexpected endorsement - from former Labour MP George Galloway who is now the bookies' favourite to win the Rochdale by-election.

Taxi driver Cllr Patel, elected as a Conservative for Audley and Queen's Park ward in 2021, quit the party in October over the government's refusal to condemn the Israeli siege of Gaza.

He is now standing as an independent candidate in Little Harwood and Whitebirk ward in May 2's local elections for Blackburn with Darwen Council.

And he has released on social media a video of Mr Galloway - standing in Rochdale for the Workers Party of Britain - giving him his full backing and promising to come and campaign for him.

It shows the former Labour and Respect MP with Cllr Patel in his campaign headquarters in Rochdale.

Mr Galloway says in the video - which has 'Supported by George Galloway' as a streamer across the bottom: "I'm backing Tiger Patel in the local elections in May.

"And I'll be in Blackburn campaigning for him.

"Everybody get behind the Tiger.

"The eye of the Tiger is on all of us."

Controversial Mr Galloway is currently the bookies' favourite to win the Rochdale poll on February 29 after Labour's candidate and the party's former Lancashire County Council leader and Azhar Ali, who represents Nelson East, had national party support and his membership withdrawn from him over remarks suggesting Israel was complicit with the Hamas massacre on October 7.

Mr Galloway, aged 69, was Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead later renamed Glasgow Kelvin from 1987 to 2003 when was expelled from the party for bringing the party into disrepute over his prominent opposition to the Iraq War.

He has made support for the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israeli army operations in Gaza a key part of his Rochdale campaign in a constituency with a 30,000-strong South Asian heritage Muslim community.

Following the 2019 general election, he founded the Workers Party of Britain.

Cllr Patel said: "This is a pivotal moment in my campaign journey.

"Mr Galloway's endorsement comes as a testament to my dedication and vision for the community.

"I would like to express my delight and gratitude to Mr Galloway for this endorsement as a vote of confidence in my ability to represent constituents effectively.

"My candidacy is now bolstered by a respected political figure.

"I am standing in Little Harwood and Whitebirk as the residents want me to. It is where I first stood as a Liberal Democrat in 2004."

The Lancashire Telegraph has approached Mr Galloway's campaign for comment.

"I aim to bring about positive change and address key issues facing the community.