Respect MP George Galloway faced further calls to step down yesterday, after a mass resignation left him as a one-man party in Bradford.
All five Respect councillors sensationally quit the group yesterday, after failing to resolve a long-running row with Mr Galloway and senior party officials. Bradford Council leader David Green responded by urging Mr Galloway to consider his position, saying he was now “completely isolated” and had shown an “utter disregard for Bradford since being elected”.
Earlier this week, Bradford East MP David Ward (Lib Dem) had called for Mr Galloway to “just go” after the Respect MP complained of the “tedium” of Parliament.
Yesterday, the five Respect councillors announced they had permanently quit the party and would from now on work as a group of independent councillors. In a war of words that followed, the councillors accused unnamed figures in the Respect party of having “no interest in transparency, accountability and equity”.
In response, Mr Galloway called for the five councillors to give up their seats on Bradford Council and said their “impact in the council chamber has been virtually non-existent”.
But Mr Galloway remained defiant when asked by the Telegraph & Argus whether the resignations spelled the end of Respect in Bradford.
He said the party would be putting forward a number of candidates in next year’s local elections and would be “fighting to win”.
Yesterday group leader Councillor Alyas Karmani issued a statement on behalf of all five councillors, saying their request for a “full and unconditional retraction” for the suspension in August of Councillors Ishtiaq Ahmed and Mohammad Shabir had not been met. He said: “After much deliberation this has left our group no choice but to fully resign from the Respect party with immediate effect and henceforth we will continue to operate as a group of independent councillors for the remainder of our term. This decision has not been made lightly and we are saddened that certain ‘gatekeepers’ involved in Bradford Respect appear to have no interest in transparency, accountability and equity.”
But even the split itself has caused a further row – with Mr Galloway claiming the two suspended councillors had actually been expelled from Respect hours before they resigned.
Coun Karmani said he had told Mr Galloway’s parliamentary secretary, Rob Hoveman, that all five were resigning, but soon after Councillors Ahmed and Shabbir had received an e-mail from the party’s acting secretary, Ron McKay, saying the pair had been dismissed.