George Galloway says he would only serve until 2024 if he won Batley and Spen by-election as Bradford West's Naz Shah calls him an 'absentee MP'
Former MP George Galloway has revealed he would only serve for three years at most if he won the upcoming Batley and Spen by-election as he was described as an "absentee MP" over his past voting record.
The veteran campaigner, who was expelled from Labour in 2003 and was the MP for Bradford West between 2012 and 2015, is standing as a candidate for his Workers Party of Britain in the poll on July 1.
And in a video he revealed that his explicit aim was to oust Sir Keir Starmer as leader of the Labour Party, adding: “If Keir Starmer loses this by-election, it’s curtains for Keir Starmer."
Approached by The Yorkshire Post and asked whether he wanted to win the seat or just stop Labour's candidate, Kim Leadbeater, Mr Galloway said: "I am in this contest to win it."
In an email, he added: "If elected I will serve only the remainder of this term, giving all those unfairly excluded from the Labour selection another opportunity.
"I will fight for all the communities of Batley & Spen, I will put their demands on the map, in Parliament and in my media work which reaches millions. If I’m elected everybody will know about it. Oh, and the fading failing poor excuse for a 'leader' of the opposition Keir Starmer will fall."
As things stand, the next General Election is due to happen on May 2, 2024. But proposed changes to legislation could remove fixed dates.
Asked about his claim that some candidates were "unfairly excluded" from the Labour selection last weekend, Mr Galloway claimed that Kirklees councillor Aafaq Butt was "formally excluded" and that council leader Shabir Pandor was "eased out".
Labour denies unfairly excluding any candidates. Coun Butt made the longlist for selection by Labour but did not make the shortlist of three to go before party members after being interviewed by the National Executive Committee.
Coun Pandor was touted as a potential candidate but has since thrown his support behind Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered former MP Jo Cox, who was chosen on Sunday to be Labour's candidate.
Mr Galloway, a politician, broadcaster and writer, has been an MP for four different constituencies since 1987 and is currently the leader of the Workers Party of Britain.
In March 2012, he won the Bradford West by-election in an unexpected landslide result for the Respect Party, with Mr Galloway calling it "the most sensational victory in British political history."
In a message posted today on social media for the "great people of Batley and Spen" Labour's Naz Shah, who has been Bradford West MP since defeating Mr Galloway in 2015, described her predecessor as an "an absentee MP".
She said that in his combined eight years as MP for Bradford West and an earlier spell as MP in Bethnal Green and Bow in London, he voted only 180 times. This compares with former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, who voted 174 times in her one year in the job.
Mrs Shah said Mr Galloway made 18 spoken contributions and 16 written questions as Bradford West MP, compared with 58 spoken and 58 written contributions by Mrs Cox.
"We need more MPs in Parliament, that will turn up and actually represent your concern on issues of government neglect, we need more MPs to hold the Ministers to account.
"That won't happen by voting for an absentee MP, but by voting for Labour MPs that can join MPs like me in Parliament, so we can work together and raise issues, which are important to you."
Asked by The Yorkshire Post about his voting record, Mr Galloway said: "I was in Parliament every day and in Bradford every weekend. I held perhaps Britain’s busiest constituency surgery every Saturday.
"We forced the pace on Westfield [shopping centre], helped save the Odeon building and led the fight to keep open the National Museum of Photography. The rest is just Labour propaganda.
"In Parliament one can only vote for the Prime Minister's motion or the leader of the opposition’s amendment. I seldom could support either.
"But I did table more parliamentary motions than ANY other member of the House. Not bad in three years.
"I have been elected six times to Parliament including defeating the titan of post-war politics Roy Jenkins and taking two rock-solid Labour seats. Most people would concede I was a Parliamentary orator of the first class."
Mr Galloway is aiming to provide a further headache for Labour which will be looking to secure every vote it can get to avoid a similar fate to the party’s dramatic defeat by the Tories in Hartlepool earlier this month.
Kim Leadbeater – the sister of Jo Cox, who was Batley and Spen’s MP until she was murdered in the constituency in 2016 – was selected as Labour’s candidate earlier this week.
But the Conservatives, who have chosen Leeds councillor Ryan Stephenson as their candidate, will also be looking closely at who else is on the ballot paper, potentially complicating the electoral maths.
In the December 2019 general election, Paul Halloran, representing the Heavy Woollen District Independents, came third in Batley and Spen, securing more than 6,000 votes – 12% of the total.
Mr Halloran has not yet confirmed whether he is standing on July 1.
And the Yorkshire Party, which has selected local engineer Corey Robinson to fight the by-election, came third in the recent West Yorkshire mayoral election, with nearly 10% of the vote, beating the Greens and the Liberal Democrats.
The Liberal Democrats have chosen Jo Conchie, a TV producer and "community campaigner" who recently stood to be Cheshire's crime commissioner, as their candidate.
It was the West Yorkshire mayoral poll which prompted the Batley and Spen by-election as the winner, Labour’s Tracy Brabin, had to relinquish her parliamentary seat due to her new role.
Ms Brabin was elected in Batley and Spen in 2016 in a largely uncontested by-election following Miss Cox’s murder.
In the 2019 general election she won for Labour with a majority of 3,525 over the Conservatives.
Campaigning in Batley and Spen could be complicated by coronavirus, with Kirklees one of the areas where people have been encouraged to “minimise travel” due to the spread of the Indian variant.