THE former leader of Respect has denied she is fighting a grudge match against Labour’s Naz Shah on behalf of her former colleague George Galloway, saying she would be the “last person” to do so.

Salma Yaqoob, who is standing as an independent candidate in Labour-held Bradford West, said just months after helping Mr Galloway win his infamous 2012 by-election victory, she resigned as its leader following controversial comments he had made about rape, as well as “constituency issues not being addressed”.

On Mr Galloway's record as the area's former MP, she said: “I think the tragedy has been that huge swell of enthusiasm that happened in 2012 and the real yearning on the ground has been disappointed.”

Ms Yaqoob acknowledged she was now being helped by former supporters of the now-defunct Respect Party, but said they were “genuine people” and not “apologists for that person”.

She said: “So any notion, which sadly is being spread in the current campaign, that somehow this is a revenge campaign or George Galloway has some input into it, is absolutely incorrect.

“I would be the last person to be used for such a means.”

Ms Yaqoob, an NHS manager who was born in Bradford but lives in Birmingham, said she had been approached by Bradfordians urging her to stand in the election and continue the “original, positive, fresh, vibrant campaign”.

Ms Yaqoob said while she didn’t have a formal manifesto, she would be campaigning about issues like education, unemployment, health and homelessness.

Ms Yaqoob is an enthusiastic supporter of the idea of left-wing parties collaborating to form so-called ‘progressive alliances’ and said she was also a firm supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Asked why, then, she was standing against one of Mr Corbyn’s sitting MPs, she said she had “a huge amount of respect for Naz Shah as an individual - she’s broken certain barriers” but then accused her of being part of a cabal of MPs seeking “to undermine their own party leader”.

Ms Shah denied this, and said: “No-one knows the issues faced by Bradford West better than I do, having lived here, worked here, been born here, raised here and my kids are here.”

She said she had worked hard over the last two years to bring about changes to benefit “the entire constituency”.

She said Labour’s manifesto offered “radical change”, which was the platform she and her party colleagues were standing on.

Mr Galloway could not be reached for comment.