FORMER MP George Galloway was back on the campaign trail and kissing babies today as he announced he was “almost certain” to stand in the forthcoming Bradford West by-election.
The former Respect MP, who was expelled from the Labour Party in 2003, stood on the steps of Bradford’s City Hall to explain he had come to test the water but “the chances are” he will stand in the poll.
He said: “I’m here to take the temperature in the city. I’m finding it warm and sunny so far.
“By the end of the day I’ll have a better picture but the chances are that if and when the House of Commons declares the by-election on and the nominations open then I will be candidate for Respect in the Bradford West constituency.”
After he was told the by-election would probably be in about three-and-a-half weeks time, he said he was “almost certain” he would stand.
Mr Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party in 2003 over comments he made about the war in Iraq.
But his profile continued to grow as he appeared regularly on TV, famously making an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006.
The former Glasgow Labour MP returned to the Commons in 2005 when he won the Bethnal Green seat for his Respect party.
But he failed to get elected when he stood in Poplar and Limehouse in the 2010 general election.
No date has yet been fixed for the Bradford West poll.
The by-election has been triggered because last week Labour backbencher Marsha Singh announced he is to step down as an MP. He said his resignation was on medical advice owing to “serious health problems”.
Mr Singh has represented Bradford West, a Labour stronghold, since 1997.
Mr Galloway said; “Bradford needs a strong voice to speak up for the people and the city with the many problems which it has.”
He said: “What do I offer? Well, I offer a well known face, a well known voice and a well known set of capabilities.”
He told the small crowd which had gathered he was a “freedom fighter” who was “not here to cause any trouble”.
Mr Galloway spoke for about 15 minutes before touring a sun-drenched Centenary Square in the city centre.
He embraced supporters, endured some chanting by a handful of detractors and managed to kiss one baby: a slightly cautious-looking Salina Suleman, 19 months.
But Mr Galloway was pipped to the post as the first candidate to declare they are definitely standing in the poll by Ukip’s Sonja McNally.
Mother-of-two Ms McNally wasted no time in declaring Mr Galloway “little more than a political opportunist desperate to remain in the limelight”.
The ex-Green Party council candidate, who joined Ukip at the beginning of this year, said: “Bradford West deserves an MP that cares about the area, not a career politician only selected by a party to increase their numbers.
“In the case of George Galloway, he is little more than a political opportunist desperate to remain in the limelight to keep his Z-list celebrity credentials intact.”
Ukip Leader Nigel Farage said: “Sonja is a first-class candidate who knows that patch like the back of her hand.
“Voters have become fed up with the empty promises of the so-called big three parties and are increasingly looking elsewhere.
“Ukip is slowly and surely building up a credible reputation in local politics and giving the others a run for their money.”