LONDON: Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob has resigned and quitted the party after developing differences with the party’s lone MP and firebrand figurehead George Galloway.
Salma Yaqoob, a Pakistani origin national politician who rose to fame after leading the campaign against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, blamed a “breakdown in trust” at senior levels in the party. It is believed the two leaders developed differences over George Galloway’s controversial remarks about rape and the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
In a podcast, Galloway said the allegations did not constitute rape “as most people understand it” and Assange was guilty merely of “bad sexual etiquette.” He also said that “not everybody needs to be asked prior.” He later “clarified” the remarks, insisting that he had always believed non-consensual sex was rape. Ms Yaqoob described the original comments as “wrong and deeply disappointing.”
Supported by mainly Pakistani voters, George Galloway stormed to victory in early April this year when he beat Labour candidate Imran Hussain to a historic victory, beating the three mainstream parties by gaining more than 18,000 votes. Salma Yaqoob led the campaign in Pakistani communities to gather support for Galloway and was able to mobilise a large women vote.
Members of Pakistani community, who formed the bedrock of George Galloway during his election campaign, were meeting on Wednesday night to consider their options. Many will, it is believed, leave the anti-war left-wing party in drovers after Salma Yaqoob’s exit from the Respect scene.
Referring to Galloway’s remarks on rape and the uproar it caused, Salma Yaqoob said the last few weeks had been “extremely difficult” for the party and for her and the decision to quit the party had been taken with “deep regret” and “collaborative working” had ceased.
The News understands that Salma Yaqoob was highly upset when thuggish elements, including some with highly radical religious agenda, took control of the party during the election campaign.
In the aftermath of the victory, some key elements in the Respect party harassed and bullied their opponents, including journalists who were issued death threats for allegedly filing “anti-Galloway” reports.
Such hardliners created so much hostility in the town known as “Little Pakistan” that the local police expressed their inability to help when approached for assistance against threats. Salma Yaqoob tried her best to reign in such elements but failed. She was also unhappy with the totally unpredictable nature of the maverick Scottish politician who continues to create surprises, in his personal life as well as in politics.
Salma Yaqoob has been approached many times in the past by both Labour and Conservative Party but she refused to join these parties. A source close to her told The News that she may join one of the two main parties.