Galloway looks on the bright side despite losing east London stronghold

Jerome Taylor hears the Respect party founder claim the credit for the election of the country's first British Bangladeshi MP

If universities ever began offering courses on how to turn a loss into a win, chances are George Galloway would be a leading lecturer. The Respect party founder saw his 23-year-parliamentary career nosedive into ignominious defeat last week but that hasn't stopped him reaching out for any silver linings he can find.

In Shadwell, east London, the only area of the capital where the Respect party managed to get a councillor elected, Mr Galloway held a press conference in which the message was clear: Respect may have been squarely defeated, but it is are not going away.

Flanked by a small following of supporters, the 55-year-old Glaswegian took to a podium under a giant crucifix in a tiny community chapel near Watney Market.

"The election results were very disappointing for Respect," he admitted in a flash of humility that contrasted with his angry oratory on the campaign trail. "We had three target seats, and we hoped to have three members of parliament – which in a hung parliament could have been a magic number. In the end we lost all of those battles. We are bloodied, but we are unbowed."

Then it was back to what George Galloway does best, attacking his opponents. First up was Labour's new MP for Bethnal and Bow, Rushanara Ali, the first British Bangladeshi to be elected to Westminster. Mr Galloway seized the Labour stronghold in 2005 by capitalising on anti-Iraq war sentiment in one of the most Muslim areas of the country to topple the pro-war Oona King. Last week Ali grabbed it back for the Labour party with a majority of more than 8,000.

Not that Mr Galloway seemed all that upset. In his eyes the Labour party have him to thank for that particular electoral victory.

"We are responsible for Britain having its first British Bangladeshi MP and that is something that nobody will ever be able to take away from us," he said. "And a little more credit from the Labour candidate might have been the decent thing to do. Our defeat of Oona King, which led to the election of a British Bangladeshi MP, is our achievement."

Mr Galloway believes that had Oona King won in 2005, she would have remained an MP for decades, making it virtually impossible for anyone from the local Bangladeshi community to win a seat in parliament.

But if Respect is keen to focus on anything faintly positive it is because its star has fallen so low. In the London borough of Tower Hamlets, Respect's birthplace and spiritual stronghold, Labour convincingly beat the party's two parliamentary candidates and almost succeeded in wiping out Respect at a local level, too. The party has gone from eight to just one councillor, Haroon Miah, who was elected in the overwhelmingly Bangladeshi ward of Shadwell.

In Birmingham, the party's second stronghold, Respect fared a little better, getting three councillors elected. But Salma Yaqoob, who could have become Britain's first hijab-wearing Westminster politician, failed in her bid to become MP. Miss Yaqoob, who is widely respected as one of Britain's most successful religiously devout Muslim politicians, upped her share of the vote and came second. Ironically, some of her stiffest opposition came from orthodox and Islamist sections of the Muslim community in Birmingham who felt they either shouldn't vote in a non-Islamic system, or couldn't vote for a woman.

There are also question marks over the party's finances. Azmal Hussain, Respect's chairman in Tower Hamlets, has resigned and says he will no longer give the party "a single penny". But yesterday, Mr Galloway angrily denied any suggestion that his party would struggle financially and said Mr Hussain was not a financial backer.

"The briefest glance at the Electoral Commission's website... will show that Mr Azmal Hussain does not appear at all," he said. "We will be funded in exactly the same way that we've been funded now, which is small donations from people who are not rich, except in spirit, dedication and commitment."

Respect did manage to force a vote in favour of Tower Hamlets – the third poorest borough in the country – having a directly elected mayor. Despite supporting elected mayors in three neighbouring boroughs (Lewisham, Hackney and Newham), the Labour party furiously opposed moves to do the same in Tower Hamlets because they were worried that Respect could seize control of the borough's £1bn budget and continue to influence east London's politics.

But Respect gathered enough votes to force a referendum, and last week Tower Hamlet's constituents voted overwhelmingly in favour of an elected mayor. An election will be held in October and it is clear that Respect hopes to get a favourable candidate elected to keep a foothold in the area.

"We may stand a candidate ourselves, or we may support another candidate if the right candidate comes forward," Mr Galloway said. "But one way or another we intend to be decisive in the outcome of that great battle which will take place in October."

Mr Galloway is due to fly to the US today to begin looking for funding for what he hopes will be a "Michael Moore-style documentary on the Palestinian cause".

Asked whether he might return to make a personal bid for the mayoralty he replied with a wry smile: "I merely say this. If the rumours that we hear are true, that New Labour intends to put up Oona King to be the directly elected mayor in Tower Hamlets, well, I would find such a contest irresistible. So if New Labour wants to put her up, bring it on."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing