Galloway attacks Labour for choosing "white guy" Steve Reed as Respect begins Croydon North campaign
GEORGE Galloway officially launched Respect's Croydon North by-election campaign with a promise that his party will stay in Croydon "win, lose or draw".
Speaking at a launch party at Crystals nightclub in Selhurst, the Bradford West MP told the audience that Respect is to open offices in West Croydon and Thornton Heath.
He then revealed to the Advertiser that the party plans to run candidates in the council elections in 2014.
Mr Galloway appeared at the rally to garner support for Respect candidate Lee Jasper, a former race advisor to Ken Livingstone.
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He attacked Labour and repeatedly claimed the party is "scared" of Respect's chances at the by-election on November 29.
"In just a few days we have begun to rock and roll this constituency," declared Mr Galloway.
"When Chuka Umunna (Streatham MP) said it was a two horse race he meant to fool people into believing it was between New Labour and the Tories. It is a two horse race Chuka – it's us against you."
Personalities from from film, media and music appeared at the launch party on Saturday, including Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels star Vaz Blackwood; George Ruddock, editor and managing director of weekly newspaper The Voice, and rapper English Frank.
Around 80 people attended, most travelling from outside of Croydon. Following the speeches they were played to by former Radio 1 DJ Chris Goldfinger, former owner of The Club, in London Road.
Respect has been criticised after Mr Galloway said its campaign would "target" black and Muslim voters in Croydon North, but the former Labour MP told the crowd his party would appeal to anyone looking for "peace, justice and equality".
He then attacked Labour for selecting "white guy" Steve Reed, leader of Lambeth Council, as its candidate.
Mr Galloway said: "We have placed New Labour in an immediate quandary. They knew we were running Lee Jasper. So they had a choice to make with their candidate.
"They had all kinds of minorities in this constituency to choose from. They could have chosen an Asian candidate. They could have chosen a Muslim candidate. They could have chosen one of two or three black candidates. But they chose the white guy, as they normally do.
"They like to call it diversity. It's a strange kind of diversity. If there's any constituency in Britain that needs to give a voice to the voiceless people it's this one."
Mr Galloway added: "They want to put up a council leader from Lambeth whose name is mud in Lambeth.
"He could never stand for Parliament for Lambeth. He wanted to put his hat in the ring in Streatham but he was laughed out of the contest, such was his record of sacking workers, cutting services and the arrogant way in which he has run the council is legendary.
"He hopes Croydon is far away from Lambeth that his reputation will not follow him. But I've got news for him. It's already here and we'll spend every day and night telling the people of Croydon North that if you elect this guy not only will no one notice but nothing that is a problem here will be resolved.
"But if you elect Lee Jasper everyone in the country will have to take notice."
Lowering the voting age to 16 and using confiscated assets from criminals to invest in the community were among Mr Jasper's policies. Alienation of minorities in Croydon North is "rampant", he added.
"It's going to be a great fight. But if we're going to create history, I need troops on the ground. It's going to be an earthquake and a firestorm."
Mr Galloway said Respect would finish "first or second" come November 29, but believes the party can repeat the shock result which saw him win the Bradford West by-election in March.
For full coverage of Respect's campaign and by-election build-up from all the candidates see this website throughout the week and this Friday's Croydon Advertiser.