The race to be London Mayor is the biggest personality contest in politics. And one personality looms largest: George Galloway, back from Bradford and seeking his fortune on the capital’s streets.
In his public appearances, the Respect party leader has been on his usual bombastic form. But dig a little deeper, and it becomes apparent that his campaign — and his career — is on the shakiest ground.
In 2012, Galloway won the Bradford West by-election by 10,000 votes: a staggering coup. But at the general election this year his party was drummed out of town. Not only did Galloway lose, but Respect’s four councillors (who had only recently rejoined after a spat with their leader) have abandoned it again. Its registered headquarters is now a tanning salon.
Respect barely exists in Bradford — or anywhere else. In 2013, the membership fell to 230 people. Last year, that had rebounded to 630 — but beyond their membership fees, Respect raised only £1,133 in donations. Its assets were just £1,947.
Galloway’s mayoral campaign is, thus far, equally underpowered. His crowdfunding site has raised £3,140 of its £100,000 target. His launch in June attracted fewer than 200 people, and his campaign has just 1,289 followers on Twitter. Respect’s London messageboards and Facebook pages are a wasteland.
To understand how Galloway found himself in these straits, you have to understand what happened in Bradford...