George Galloway is standing in the Manchester Gorton by-election

The former Respect MP and cat impersonator is back. 

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George Galloway is to stand in the Manchester Gorton by-election, the controversial former MP announced today.

Writing on Arron Banks' Westmonster website, the former Respect leader - who will run as an independent - said he was standing out of "admiration" for the late Sir Gerald Kaufman, who died last month. Galloway said he hoped to privde an alternative to the "divided and ineffective" Labour party.

A former Labour MP, Galloway rose to prominence in the noughties due to his outspoken opposition to the invasion of Iraq. He was expelled from the party in 2003, and went on to found the left-wing, anti-war party Respect, with a voter base mainly composed of British Muslims.

Almost a third of those living in Gorton are of Asian origin. Galloway, whose last two electoral victories came in Labour seats with substantial Asian populations (Bradford West and Bethnal Green and Bow), directly attacked Labour's "All-Asian short-list". 

He wrote: "The “All-Asian short-list” hand-picked by Keith Vaz is just not good enough for the people of Gorton one of the most deprived constituencies in Britain. The short-listing, which excluded many better candidates, is the latest in a long line of insults delivered by mainstream parties to local communities."

Galloway, originally from Dundee, claimed he had an attachment to the community because two of his children lived in Manchester: "It’s true I’m not local but then neither was Sir Matt Busby. Neither was Sir Alex Ferguson nor Pep Guardiola nor Jose Mourinho. Like them I want to work for you, for Gorton, for Manchester."

In the wake of Galloway’s announcement, Labour’s campaign manager Lisa Nandy branded his entry into the race as “entirely self serving”.

Alluding to Galloway’s controversial comments on the Julian Assange sexual assault case, Nandy said: “Manchester Gorton deserves an MP who, like the late Gerald Kaufman, will work tirelessly for their constituents and is Manchester through and through.

"They deserve better than a man who has described the sexual assault of women as 'bad sexual etiquette' and accused victims of domestic violence of lying for personal gain. He has already been rejected by the people of Bradford and London, and I’m confident that residents in Manchester will send a clear message that Galloway’s divisive, destructive politics isn’t welcome here."

Galloway, a Brexiteer who finished a distant seventh with just 1.4 per cent of the vote in last year’s London mayoral election, has been given long odds to win the seat from Labour, whose 24,079 majority makes Gorton their ninth safest seat. Much more likely to pull off an upset are the Lib Dems, who hope an unambiguously pro-EU campaign could tap into local disenchantment with Labour’s Brexit stance (Gorton voted to remain by an estimated 65 per cent). The party’s leader, Tim Farron, said Galloway’s entry boosted their chances.
 
“While George Galloway won’t pick up enough votes to win, he will clearly take a number of votes from Labour,” he said. “That increases our chances of winning as the only party who can beat Labour in Manchester Gorton.”

He added: “George Galloway is a divisive hard left campaigner of the old school and an ardent supporter of Brexit. There will be little support for his brand of politics in Manchester Gorton, which is a diverse and tolerant place and voted to remain in the EU.”

The Liberal Democrats have also dug up an old clip from Galloway's time on Celebrity Big Brother, which saw him impersonate a cat.

Now read Stephen on who will win in Manchester Gorton

Patrick Maguire was political correspondent at the New Statesman.

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