Former Labour and Respect MP George Galloway has thrown his hat into the ring to succeed Sir Gerald Kaufman as MP for Manchester Gorton.
Mr Galloway – who was expelled from Labour in 2003 – will stand as an Independent candidate in the upcoming by-election triggered by the long-serving MP’s death in February.
Announcing his candidacy on the Westmonster website, Mr Galloway said that ousting Labour from a stronghold which it has held since 1935 and won by a margin of 24,000 votes in 2015 would be “the mother of all by-election victories”.
He denounced Labour’s shortlist of five ethnic minority contenders to be its candidate as an “insult” to the local community, claiming it had been engineered by National Executive Committee member Keith Vaz, who sits on the selection panel for the constituency.
“The ‘All-Asian short-list’ hand-picked by Keith Vaz is just not good enough for the people of Gorton, one of the most deprived constituencies in Britain,” said Mr Galloway.
“The short-listing, which excluded many better candidates, is the latest in a long line of insults delivered by mainstream parties to local communities.”
On Labour’s shortlist for the by-election, whose date is yet to be fixed, are North West MEP Afzal Khan and city councillors Yasmine Dar, Amina Lone, Luthfur Rahman and Nasrin Ali.
The Greens, who took second place in Gorton at the last general election, have selected entrepreneur Jess Mayo as their candidate.
The Liberal Democrats, who slumped to fifth place in 2015, will be represented by former Gorton councillor Jackie Pearcey.
Sir Gerald Kaufman held Gorton in 2015 with 67% of the vote, ahead of the Greens (9.8%), Conservatives (9.7%) and Ukip (8.2%).
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said Mr Galloway’s candidacy would boost his party’s chances by taking votes from Labour, but insisted the pro-Brexit former MP could not win in a seat which voted by 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,” said Mr Farron.
“People in Manchester want change, they deserve better than a failed politician and a failing Labour Party.”
Mr Galloway was a Labour MP in Glasgow seats from 1987 until his 2003 expulsion, later serving as Respect MP for Glasgow Kelvin until 2005, for Bethnal Green and Bow from 2005-10 and Bradford West from 2012-15.