Leeds & West Yorkshire

Bradford Respect councillors resign in George Galloway row

Respect councillors Mohammad Shabbir and Ishtiaq Ahmed
Image caption The resignations follow the suspensions of Respect councillors Mohammad Shabbir and Ishtiaq Ahmed

The Respect party no longer has any councillors in Bradford after they all resigned, accusing George Galloway of defamation and lack of transparency.

The five councillors, elected in a surge of local support for Respect last year, temporarily resigned in August but have now left the party altogether.

Two were suspended over criticism of Mr Galloway's plans to stand for London mayor, and he questioned their loyalty.

Respect said the councillors' conduct had been "unacceptable".

Suspensions 'unwarranted'

The five councillors are Alyas Karmani, Ruqaya Collector, Faisal Khan, Ishtiaq Ahmed and Mohammed Shabbir.

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

In response to the article, 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.

Image caption The councillors won council seats in the wake of George Galloway's election as MP for Bradford West

Mr Ahmed and Mr Shabbir were suspended by national party managers the same day.

In a statement issued on Friday the councillors said they had been in discussions with senior party officials over the past two months to address their concerns about the "unwarranted" suspensions, "defamatory" statements made about them and a "failure to develop transparent operations structures and procedures to enable the party to work effectively in Bradford".

They said: "Regrettably, these discussions have failed to find common ground as senior Respect officials have shown a disregard to address our legitimate grievances and we have been unable to resolve our issues of difference.

"After much deliberation this has left our group no choice but to fully resign from the Respect party with immediate effect."

Call to resign

The councillors said they would continue as independents for the remainder of their terms.

Respect said talks between party officials and the councillors had "foundered on the unacceptable conduct of the councillors", who it accused of regularly speaking out against the party.

It said Mr Ahmed and Mr Shabir were expelled by the party on Thursday, the day the councillors say they informed officials of their resignation.

A Respect statement said the councillors' visibility and impact in the council chamber "has been virtually non-existent".

"If they had a shred of principle they would now resign their council seats and stand again in their new colours. Or will they instead continue to draw thousands of pounds of public money until they are removed by the voters?"

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