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Councillors urge Respect to revoke pair’s suspension as MP rift continues
6:19pm Wednesday 21st August 2013 in News
Bradford’s Respect councillors, who temporarily resigned from their party en-masse last week, say they hope to resolve the dispute this week.
All five sitting Respect councillors made the shock move last Thursday, after two of their number were suspended from the party over comments they made to a national newspaper about Bradford West Respect MP George Galloway.
They accused the party of failing to explain the reasons for the pair’s suspensions and said they would be resigning the party whip until the two councillors in question – Ishtiaq Ahmed and Mohammed Shabbir – are “publicly exonerated and their suspensions revoked”.
But this hasn’t yet happened, group leader Councillor Alyas Karmani said yesterday. Coun Karmani (Little Horton), said he was hopeful the matter could still be resolved and expected an announcement by the end of the week.
Ron McKay, Mr Galloway’s spokesman and the party’s national secretary, said both he and Mr Galloway also wanted the dispute to be resolved and said the current situation looked “encouraging”.
The rift between Mr Galloway, the party’s most prominent figure, and the five Respect councillors has been blamed on three separate issues.
The most publicised of these is Mr Galloway’s suggestion that he could run as Mayor of London in 2016.
In the aftermath of the suspensions, Mr Galloway also claimed there was a link between the local situation and a court case involving his former aide.
Mr Galloway’s former parliamentary secretary, Aisha Ali-Khan, 33, of Keighley, and Metropolitan Police Detective Inspector Afiz Khan, 46, last week appeared in court charged with misconduct-related offences.
The pair will next appear at Southwark Crown Court on August 28.
In a blog, Mr Galloway alleged that unnamed councillors had “openly connived with the Khans in destabilising the party in Bradford”.
This claim led to anger among all five Respect councillors. A joint statement from the group – which also includes deputy group leader Ruqayyah Collecter (City) and Faisal Khan (Bradford Moor) said: “This allegation is defamatory, baseless and completely unfounded and is symptomatic of a culture within the party that seeks to marginalise and excommunicate party members that raise legitimate concerns in relation to the operation and future development of the Respect Party in Bradford.”
The third disagreement surrounds the party’s choice of candidate to fight for the Manningham ward at the next local elections in May. The councillors were said to be unhappy when Mr Galloway overruled their choice of candidate.