David Maddox: Galloway open to old Labour friends

ONE of the contests which has gone a little under the radar during the campaign is the fight for the seat of Bradford West which could, in the strange mix of things, throw up an unexpected ally for Labour in the post 7 May shake-up.

Galloway describes the SNP as Tartan Tories in disguise. Picture: AP

The seat is currently held by former Labour Glasgow MP George Galloway, now the leader of the left-wing Respect Party, which he won off his old party in a surprising by-election victory in 2012.

You don’t need a long memory to recall the animosity of Mr Galloway’s departure from Labour in 2003 when he was found guilty of five charges of bringing the party into disrepute and accused, among other things, of “inciting foreign forces to rise up against British troops” with his outspoken opposition to the Iraq War.

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Mr Galloway then set about exacting revenge by defeating the Blairite Oona King in Bethnal Green and Bow to return as a Respect MP, but lost a little respect with his infamous appearance as a cat on Big Brother.

But now, speaking to The Scotsman while on the stump in Bradford, Mr Galloway holds a lot of goodwill for his old party, particularly in Scotland where he hopes “my old friend Jim [Murphy] can somehow turn it around”.

A surprising statement about supposedly the leading Blairite left in the current Labour leadership from the man who was the bane of the Blairite view of the world.

Galloway describes the SNP as “Tartan Tories in disguise”. “They have never been progressive, right through my political life,” he added.

He went on: “I think Jim is the only man with the weight and calibre to turn it around, but I fear it is too late.”

This is despite seeing Nicola Sturgeon as “a pale shadow of Alex Salmond”.

And he added: “I just wish Jim had been willing to disown Iraq and Trident and that might have been enough to change things.”

But even more interesting is his offer to work with a Labour government.

“My door is always open to Ed Miliband,” he said.

While Galloway is only one candidate, he is widely expected to retain his seat so the statement may have more significance than people think.

With a hung parliament expected and various parties, not least the SNP who have hit 54 per cent in the Scottish, expected to wade in with seats then Labour and the Conservatives will be looking for every extra vote they can to create a stable government after the election.

Galloway revels in the “anti-politics mood about the country” and sees himself as a product of it, but he could find himself in the unlikely position of being one of the MPs to call the shots in Westminster in the post-election chaos.