George Galloway: Labour voters blind and unthinking

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LABOUR's success in Scotland has been based on the "uncritical, blind-thinking" support of people in low-income seats like Glasgow North East, George Galloway has claimed.

George Galloway (left) with Tommy Sheridan in Glasgow yesterday. Picture: Robert Perry

In comments which Labour described as "an insult" to Glaswegians, the Respect MP said victory for his former party in tomorrow's by-election would see "the waters close" back over the largely poor part of the city.

Campaigning for Solidarity leader Tommy Sheridan, Mr Galloway also attacked Labour candidate Willie Bain, claiming the party chose a "Mr Nobody" to stand and mocking Mr Bain for still living with his parents..

Pointing to Scottish Labour MPs, Mr Galloway declared: "They have got fat on the unthinking, uncritical, blind-thinking of people in constituencies like this."

Labour MSPs said they were "horrified" by the comments, while Mr Bain issued a statement to note he lived at home to share caring duties for his housebound mother.

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A spokesman added: "Willie Bain has never dressed up in a red Lycra suit and pretended to be a cat on national television. Perhaps Mr Galloway should reflect on that before he insults anyone else."

The row came as Prime Minister Gordon Brown was pressed to say yesterday why voters in Glasgow should back Labour when the gap between the rich and poor had widened during the party's 12 years in office.

Meanwhile, senior Labour sources said privately that they fear the turn-out could be as low as 25 per cent. The lowest previous turn-out for a postwar Scottish by-election was in Glasgow Anniesland in 2000, following the death of Donald Dewar when 38 per cent of voters came out.

Nonetheless, Mr Bain is the odds-on favourite to beat nearest rival, the SNP's David Kerr.

Mr Galloway, who was a Labour MP until his expulsion in 2003, claimed Mr Sheridan was the only candidate who would get the seat noticed.

He said: "Everybody knows the truth of this. The only result possible that would actually make a difference, that would change anything, that would make the political class sit up, would be a victory for Tommy Sheridan. Otherwise it's Tweedledum, Tweedledee or Tweedledum and a half."

If either Labour or the SNP won, he said, "the waters will close over the north-east of Glasgow and nobody will pay a blind bit of notice, and people will be left in the same situation as they are in now".

Turning to Mr Bain, standing for the first time, Mr Galloway said: "He's not even a legend in his own household. He's still living with his mum and dad." He claimed Sheridan was the only experienced candidate. "They (the other candidates] have never faced the kind of real political battles that Tommy Sheridan has."

His comments about Labour's traditional support in Scotland came as the Conservatives and the SNP attacked Labour's record in the constituency.

Glasgow North East has one of the highest rates of social deprivation in western Europe, with nearly a third of working age constituents on benefit.

Figures for September show that the rate of people claiming jobseeker's allowance was 7.1 per cent, or the highest in Scotland. On top of that a further 9,000 people – or one sixth of the working age population – were claiming some form of disability or incapacity benefit. The seat also ranks as one of the worst for crime and smoking in the UK.

Visiting the seat yesterday morning, shadow education secretary Michael Gove said that the Conservatives were serious about wanting to reduce poverty in such areas, to show Scottish voters that "we are a proper one nation party".

Asked why people should continue to vote for Labour in such a seat, Gordon Brown said: "Willie Bain, the candidate, is someone who will fight every inch of the way for every job and for every young person for his constituency".

He went on: "As the local candidate who knows about the area, people have got an enormous amount of faith in our candidate but also in his policy which is to create jobs for people in the Glasgow area."

On Mr Galloway's comments, Patricia Ferguson, Labour MSP for Maryhill, said: "I am horrified that someone would come to the constituency and insult the people who live here, like George Galloway has."

Mr Bain added: "I'm not embarrassed to live in Springburn with my parents. My mum doesn't keep well, and it is a great reassurance to me to be able to make sure she's all right at the end of the day. It also means I can take the weight off my dad's shoulders a bit."

The by-election is being held following the resignation of former Speaker Michael Martin. The result is expected late tomorrow.

• Follow the by-election online at The Steamie