LONDON — George Galloway has announced his intention to stand as an independent candidate in the upcoming by-election in Manchester Gorton.
The veteran left-winger and former MP said on Tuesday that he will be putting his name forward out of "admiration" for former Labour MP Gerald Kaufman who died last month having served the seat for three decades.
Galloway, who has sat in the Commons both for Labour and the Respect Party, said he was the best person to "fill the shoes" of Kaufman and be the "big voice" the north-west constituency needs.
Writing for the Westmonster political blog, Galloway said: "I have a long connection with the Manchester area – two of my children live here – and with the Gorton constituency in particular.
"The late Sir Gerald Kaufman was a friend of mine for over 30 years. Our friendship began before I was an MP, continued throughout my near 30 years with him in Parliament and afterwards. His appearance on my television show was his last big interview and will stand the test of time.
"I have decided to seek election for Manchester Gorton in the forthcoming by-election precisely because of my admiration for its late MP and I hope to persuade voters of every background that I am the best person to try to fill his shoes."
Galloway has had a long and often controversial political career including four general election victories while in Labour and two as leader of the Respect Party. He was a fierce opponent of the Iraq war and was suspended from Labour in 2003 after encouraging British troops to defy the "illegal orders" of then prime minister Tony Blair.
Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who is running the party's campaign in Manchester Gorton, said that Galloway's decision to stand was "entirely self-serving" and "offered nothing to the local community".
Galloway wasn't born in Gorton and will be tasked with winning over a strongly pro-Remain seat, despite campaigning passionately for Leave in the run-up to the June referendum on EU membership.
Labour has controlled Manchester Gorton since 1935 and enjoys a majority of around 24,000.
With this in mind, the odds of Labour losing the seat remain very slim. However, a source close to the party's chief electoral strategist Andrew Gwynne has expressed concern to Business Insider about what they regard as Labour's disorderly campaign.
Another source close to the Manchester Gorton contest echoed this concern, telling BI: "It's a CLP (constituency Labour Party) which has been that has been closer to an MMA fight than a GC (General Committee) for the past 15 years."
The Labour Party will announce its candidate on Wednesday after a shortlist was drawn up earlier this week.
MEP Afzal Khan is a leading name in the running to stand for Labour in the by-election. The other candidates are local councillors Luthfur Rahman, Yasmine Dar, Nasrin Ali, and Amina Lone. Sam Wheeler did not make it onto the final shortlist despite the backing of Jeremy Corbyn's office and pro-Corbyn group Momentum.
No official date has been set in stone for the by-election, but it is likely to take place in May.
March 21, 2017 at 05:02PM
from Adam Payne