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New blow for Galloway as four more Respect members defect

PUBLISHED: 20:44 24 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:23 05 October 2010

GEORGE Galloway’s Respect project suffered another bitter blow tonight (Wed) after it emerged four of his former Tower Hamlets councillors were on the brink of defecting to Labour. Shahed Ali, deputy leader of the Town Hall’s Respect group, signed his Labour application form today, along with the three remaining Respect Independent rebels Oli Rahman, Lutfa Begum and Rania Khan

EXCLUSIVE by Ted Jeory

MP GEORGE Galloway’s Respect project suffered another bitter blow tonight (Tuesday) after it emerged four of his former Tower Hamlets councillors in East London were on the brink of defecting to Labour.

Shahed Ali, the deputy leader of the Town Hall’s Respect group, signed his Labour application form today, along with the three remaining Respect Independent rebels Oli Rahman, Lutfa Begum and her daughter Rania Khan.

The East London Advertiser, which predicted the move last month, has been told that Labour’s London regional bosses have given their blessing and a formal announcement is expected tomorrow.

It will swell Labour’s numbers on the 51-seat local authority to 33 councillors.

Galloway’s party would be reduced to just six members, half the dozen Bengal Tigers’ elected two years ago, while the Tories would remain the official opposition on eight and the Lib Dems on four.

All four defectors felt they had no choice. Cllr Ali, Respect’s strongest performer on council committees, could no longer stomach his colleagues’ politics, while the other three have felt isolated ever since splitting from the main party last year.

The decision has been an agonising one for Cllr Rahman in particular. He was Respect’s first ever councillor in 2004 and his politics are deeply rooted on the Left Wing and in the Trade Union movement.

He wrote to SWP boss John Rees today to resign as chair of the Left List party.

He told Rees: “You have been a good friend to me,” adding, “I am proud to be a Muslim, socialist, Trade Unionist and will remain one for as long as I live—I will continue to fight for all the things I believe in.”

But the defection has not been without opposition within Tower Hamlets Labour party.

Many are unhappy accepting people who have been so vocal in their opposition over the past four years.

The defections will add to the factional intrigue in the ruling Labour group.

Last month, Lutfur Rahman staged a coup to oust Denise Jones as group leader. Jones has since been instrumental in persuading the four former Respect stalwarts to defect.

ted.jeory@archant.co.uk


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