Leeds & West Yorkshire

Bradford councillors resign from Respect party

Respect councillors Mohammad Shabbir and Ishtiaq Ahmed
Image caption Respect councillors Mohammad Shabbir and Ishtiaq Ahmed have been suspended by Respect

Five Respect councillors have resigned the party whip after claiming George Galloway accused them of attempting to "sabotage the party".

The Bradford city councillors said they would sit as independents until the MP for Bradford West issued an apology.

A party spokesman said their "antics" showed a "thirst for prominence".

Calls for Mr Galloway to say sorry come after two of the five councillors were suspended on Tuesday over criticism of his plans to stand for London Mayor.

The group denied allegations of sabotage and said they would resign from the party altogether unless they get an apology.

Speaking to The Guardian, the group criticised Mr Galloway, saying he should step down as an MP if he wanted to fight in the 2016 London mayoral election.

'False allegations'

In response to the article, published on Tuesday, Mr Galloway accused the councillors of "destabilising the party" and "conniving with the Khans", in reference to his former aide Aisha Ali Khan and her police officer husband Det Insp Afiz Khan who have been charged with misconduct offences.

Councillors Ishtiaq Ahmed, who represents the Manningham ward, and Mohammad Shabbir, who represents Heaton, were suspended by national party managers the same day.

In a statement, councillors Alyas Karmani, Ruqayyah Collector and Faisal Khan, together with Mr Ahmed and Mr Shabbir, said the party had attempted to "silence" the two men after they raised "legitimate frustrations" over Mr Galloway's comments.

They said: "As a group of councillors we categorically refute the assertion that any one of our group has in any way tried to sabotage the party.

"We are united as a group in objecting to the very serious allegation that 'councillors who have openly connived with the Khans in destabilising the party in Bradford'.

"This allegation is defamatory, baseless and completely unfounded and is symptomatic of a culture within the party that seeks to marginalise and excommunicate party members that raise legitimate concerns in relation to the operation and future development of the Respect Party in Bradford.

"Therefore, in view of the suspension of our fellow councillors and the intransigence of certain Respect officials, we the Bradford Respect group of Councillors collectively demand the two councillors be publicly exonerated and their suspensions revoked and the baseless and false allegations about them are retracted."

'Lewis Carroll material'

Responding to the comments, Mr Galloway's spokesman Ron McKay said people in Bradford would find the matter "absurd".

He said: "The two councillors were suspended for widely saying that they intended to stand as independents and now they are independents they are demanding the allegation is retracted that they were going stand as independents. This is Lewis Carroll material!

"The truth is that this is about all five not getting their preferred candidate for the forthcoming council May election in Manningham ward accepted and the refusal of the party to bow to their demand to take executive control of the local party."

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