George Galloway to stand in Manchester Gorton by-election
George Galloway has said he will stand as an independent candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election.
The former Respect and Labour MP said he was putting his name forward out of "admiration" for Labour's Sir Gerald Kaufman, who represented the seat for 30 years before his death last month.
Mr Galloway said he was best placed to "try and fill his shoes" and be the "big voice" the constituency needed.
Labour has drawn up a shortlist of five potential candidates.
The party, which will choose its candidate on Wednesday evening, described Mr Galloway's decision to stand as "entirely self-serving" while the Lib Dems said Mr Galloway was an "ardent" supporter of Brexit in a constituency which it said voted to remain in the EU.
The Green Party, who came second at the 2015 election, have chosen 36-year old entrepreneur Jess Mayo as their candidate. Their co-leader Jonathan Bartley said: "George Galloway is a burnt out Brexiteer who offers nothing but an overinflated ego to the people of Manchester Gorton."
No date has yet been set for the contest, although one option is to stage it on 4 May, which would coincide with the election of new metro mayor for the Greater Manchester region.
Manchester Gorton has been a Labour seat since 1935. Sir Gerald held it with a 24,000 majority at the 2015 general election, winning 67% of the total vote.
This will be the third by-election in a Labour seat this year - they lost Copeland to the Conservatives for the first time in nearly 80 years but held on to Stoke-on-Trent Central, previously regarded as a safe seat, following a strong challenge from UKIP and the Conservatives.
Announcing his candidacy, Mr Galloway paid tribute to Sir Gerald Kaufman saying his "friend of 30 years" had been a "big figure" in regional and national politics and "when he spoke people listened".
"I have decided to seek election for Manchester Gorton precisely because of my admiration for its late MP and I hope to persuade voters of every background that I am the best person to try to fill his shoes," he wrote in a blog post on the Westmonster website.
Citing his opposition to the Iraq War and the introduction of student tuition fees by Tony Blair, Mr Galloway said he would be the independent-minded voice that the constituency needed rather than another "career politician".
In a long, varied and often controversial parliamentary career, Mr Galloway represented Labour in Parliament for 16 years, winning four general election victories during that time, before he was expelled by the party in 2003.
He then won Bethnal Green and Bow for the Respect-Unity Coalition at the 2005 election, only to lose the seat in 2010. His most spectacular victory, however, was in a by-election in Bradford West in 2012 when he overturned a huge Labour majority in what he dubbed the "Bradford Spring".
Mr Galloway split from Respect, amid internal wrangling, after he failed to hold on to the seat in 2015. He later made a unsuccessful attempt to run for London mayor as an independent.
After Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader, there was speculation that he might seek to rejoin the party but Mr Galloway insisted that he saw his future as an independent politician.
"I have been six times elected to Parliament and I don't think even my worst enemy would deny my impact there," he wrote.
Mr Galloway, who announced recently that he had signed a contract to write a series of children's books, pledged that, if he was elected, he would "live, work and serve" in the constituency following criticism of the amount of time he spent in Bradford.
"It is true I am not local but then neither was Sir Matt Busby, neither was Sir Alex Ferguson, nor Pep Guardiola nor Jose Mourinho," he wrote.
Lisa Nandy, the Labour MP for Wigan who is running Labour's campaign, said Mr Galloway "offered nothing to the local community" and residents of Gorton deserved an MP who was "Manchester through and through".
Afzal Khan, Labour MEP for the North West, is among five names on Labour's short list. The others are local councillors Luthfur Rahman, Yasmine Dar, Nasrin Ali and Amina Lone. Sam Wheeler - who reportedly had the backing of the party leadership - did not make it on to the list.
The Conservatives and UKIP, who came third and fourth respectively in 2015, have yet to name their candidates.
The Lib Dems, who came fifth last time, have selected Jackie Pearcy as their candidate.