CONTROVERSIAL former MP George Galloway has declared his intention to represent Bradford West in Parliament – sparking immediate claims he knows little about the city and is only interested in “remaining in the limelight”.
The Scottish politician, who has represented both Labour and the Left-wing Respect party in Parliament, was on the campaign trail in Bradford yesterday, attracting a small crowd to Bradford City Hall.
Standing on the steps, Mr Galloway announced he had come to discuss the possibility of standing in the forthcoming Bradford West by-election.
The former MP, who was expelled from the Labour Party in 2003, 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 grew as he appeared regularly on TV, including 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 and failed to win a place on the Glasgow regional list for the Scottish Parliament last year.
No date has yet been fixed for the Bradford West poll.
The by-election was triggered last week when Labour backbencher Marsha Singh announced he was to step down as an MP owing to “serious health problems”.
Mr Singh has represented Bradford West, a Labour stronghold, since 1997.
Yesterday Mr Galloway said: “Bradford needs a strong voice to speak up for the people and the city with the many problems which it has. “What do I offer? Well, I offer a well known face, a well known voice and a well known set of capabilities.”
He told a crowd of about 30 people he was a “freedom fighter” who was “not here to cause any trouble”.
Mr Galloway 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 by Sonja McNally, of the United Kingdom Independence Party.
Mother-of-two Ms McNally declared Mr Galloway “little more than a political opportunist desperate to remain in the limelight”.
The ex-Green Party council candidate, who joined Ukip 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.”
Bradford Labour councillor Dave Green said external candidates had little to offer. Labour council leader Ian Greenwood said Mr Galloway knew little about the city and was “irrelevant”.
Mr Galloway said he was a regular visitor to Bradford and knew the issues well.