A former activist in the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir has been chosen to fight a marginal parliamentary seat for the Liberal Democrats. Maajid Nawaz renounced his past and called for a “secular Islam” six years ago, helping to set up the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think-tank. He was selected to contest the north London constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn, a three-way marginal currently held by Labour’s Glenda Jackson with a majority of just 42. Mr Nawaz, who is 35, said: I am looking forward to running for public office. Quilliam will remain a priority for me because its values shape my beliefs and outlook.”
George Galloway has proved that he has the charisma, the celebrity and the message to appeal to the young, the disillusioned and the angry particularly in the Muslim community.
His victory is the first time an independent or smaller party candidate has won a parliamentary by-election from another party in Britain since March 1973, when Dick Taverne won the Lincoln by-election (taking it from Labour).
It is also the first time since the May 2000 Romsey by-election (when the Conservatives lost to the Lib Dems) that the main Opposition party has lost a seat in a by-election.
George Galloway’s victory in Bradford West was partly due to Labour’s failure to connect with the Asian community, the shadow home secretary has said. Yvette Cooper said her party had not won over young Asians or Muslim women.
Respect Party MP Mr Galloway, expelled by Labour in 2003, held a rally before 2,000 people on Sunday after winning Thursday’s by-election by 10,140 votes.
He said he had the support of people of all backgrounds in a “democratic uprising” against established parties.
Some speculate that these results show, by-elections are usually flashes in the pan that have no lasting effect on politics. After all, the SDP is no more, and the Lib Dems may have more than six seats today, but half a century on, having just lost their deposit in Bradford, they look no nearer to that elusive return to single party Government than they did before Orpington By-elections are a chance for angry voters to let off steam and vent their spleen on establishment parties, knowing their votes will not actually change a Government.
In taking Bradford West, Mr Galloway overturned a Labour majority of more than 5,000 at the 2010 general election. He was previously MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in east London.
Commentators have suggested Mr Galloway attracted many Asian voters because of his opposition to the war in Iraq and his call for troops to withdraw from Afghanistan immediately.
But the Respect MP has rejected that, pointing out that Labour’s candidate was, in fact, a Muslim of Pakistani origin.
He told Sunday’s rally in Bradford that his 85% share of the vote in the city’s diverse university ward showed he had support of people of all races and religions.
British Muslims are abandoning their traditional support for Gordon Brown’s Labour party and instead look set to back Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats in this week’s election, community organizers have found.
A poll of British Muslims conducted last week found that almost three-quarters of respondents believed the Liberal Democrats offered fairer policies than either the Labour or Conservative parties.
YouElect, a non-partisan grass-roots campaign aimed at persuading British Muslims to vote, polled 940 Muslims from four cities over the days running up to the country’s final televised leaders’ debate last Thursday.