George Galloway goes for Manchester Gorton – and Lib Dems lick their lips
The by-election triggered by the death of Sir Gerald Kaufman is expected to take place on May 4.
The Liberal Democrats have claimed that their chances of stealing Manchester Gorton from Labour have improved significantly with the news that George Galloway is throwing his hat into the ring.
Galloway said he was entering the race in tribute to his friend Sir Gerald Kaufman, the former Labour MP whose death has triggered the by-election.
He also branded Labour an "ineffective opposition", despite being a long-term ally of Jeremy Corbyn.
In a further strange twist, Galloway set out his reasons in a piece for the Westmonster website recently set up by former Ukip donor Arron Banks.
"It’s true I’m not local, but then neither was Sir Matt Busby. Neither was Sir Alex Ferguson nor Pep Guardiola nor José Mourinho. Like them I want to work for you, for Gorton, for Manchester,” he wrote.
"If I were to win here it would be the Mother of All byelection victories for ‘The hard working people of Gorton’ who would never be forgotten again.
"If I don’t, then the alternative will be a career politician, with NO change and no Development for Gorton. It will remain the same most deprived 10% of constituencies in our country.”
On Monday night, Labour released a shortlist of five candidates hoping to be selected to fight the byelection, which is expected on 4 May alongside the first mayoral elections in Greater Manchester. Labour said Galloway’s decision was "entirely self-serving and offers nothing to the local community".
The Liberal Democrats claimed they were now a contender to win the seat - despite their lowly fifth-place finish in 2015.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: "While George Galloway won't pick up enough votes to win, he clearly will take a number of votes from Labour. That increases our chances of winning as the only party that can beat Labour in Manchester Gorton.
"George Galloway is a divisive, hard left campaigner of the old school and an ardent supporter of Brexit. There will be little support for his brand of politics in Manchester Gorton, which is a diverse and tolerant place and voted 62% to remain in the EU.
"His decision to enter the race is yet another consequence of the chronic splits and weak leadership in the Labour party. People in Manchester want change, they deserve better than a failed politician and a failing Labour party."
The Lib Dems also pointed out that every ward in Manchester Gorton constituency has elected a Lib Dem councillor in the last 11 years and that they secured 33% of the vote in the constituency in 2010. In 2015 they slumped to just over 4%.
Sir Gerald was returned with a 24,000 majority at the 2015 election in Manchester Gorton, with the Greens in second and the Tories in third.