FIREBRAND campaigner George Galloway, who put his hat in the ring for London mayor soon after suffering a disastrous defeat in the Bradford West election last year, insists he is the best choice for the capital.
The controversial politician and leader of the Respect Party is currently polling third in the race behind Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith and Labour’s Sadiq Khan.
Galloway is a familiar face in Westminster; he was a former Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead expelled from the party in 2003, and has been MP for Bethnal Green and Bow and Bradford West.
Last year the outspoken activist lost his seat to Labour’s Naz Shah in an election campaign which was characterised by personal attacks, smear campaigns, threats of legal action and claims of breaches in electoral law.
“I have never mounted a smear campaign against anybody,” Galloway, who accused Shah of lying about her marriage, told Eastern Eye.
“I take the view that there are enough liars in parliament already, enough liars in politics already, so I’m not going to remain silent while people are lying in front of me. There’s nothing more I can say on that.”
As Galloway goes out on the campaign trail to maximise his support in the greater London assembly for the election on May 5, he said his long track record as an MP and resident in the capital makes him the ideal candidate.
“I have a high recognition factor and a long track record – I’ve been in parliament for almost 30 years and lived in London almost 35 years.
“In the minority communities, which are the majority of London population (53 per cent of London is minorities), I’ve got a lot of support from them about my plans in London.”
Galloway has outlined housing – he intends to build 100,000 council houses in his four-year term – and the reform of London’s police forces as two of his key policies. Free public transport for teachers, fire, NHS staff, school, college and university students are others. He also believes he is in a good position to tackle the “real clear present danger” of terrorism in London.
“I know where this terrorism is coming from. I know why it’s coming, where it is coming from and what we need to do to defeat it.
“We need to be tough on terrorism and also need to be tough on the causes of terrorism.”
The 61-year-old, a fierce critic of Tony Blair and the war in Iraq (the main reason he was expelled from the Labour party in 2003 was for criticising the party over this issue), asserted that sending out soldiers back to Afghanistan or another Muslim country was “insanity”.
“Our foreign policy is a contributor, it is not the only one. It’s a contributor to terrorism. Islamaphobic fever that is abroad and in the country, that you see on YouTube and on videos; this atmosphere of hatred and loathing is contributing to alienation that exists within some communities from which these terrorists can recruit and fish for new people to lure onto the rocks.
“There’s every reason for Muslims to be angry. The right way to be angry is to team up with others in the democratic process to change the way things are at home and our government’s role abroad,” he said.
Galloway, who has previously called fellow mayoral candidate Khan, a “flip-flop merchant” and “product of the Blairite machine”, said the Tooting MP was trying to appeal to voters who would not vote for him. “Sadiq Khan is determined to try and ingratiate to groups in society who are first of all not going to vote for him but who he thinks he has to get down on his knees and bow too.
“I think that in following the policy he’s following of whipping Muslims, attacking Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s (on economic policies), crawling to the Israel lobby and disrespecting the Palestinian struggle for freedom, he’s alienating large numbers of people and I fear it will all be in vain.”
Galloway added London, most of all, needed a “leader”.
“It’s a three horse race, there’s seven candidates and I’m currently in third place. London needs a leader, not a reader. Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson were clearly a cut above the ordinary machine politician and I’m definitely that.”