George Galloway could be preparing for a political comeback in the highly contested Gorton byelection.
The former MP will only say that he is “considering standing” – but sources say he has been on the campaign trail for three weeks.
On Friday, Galloway was reportedly giving a talk to the congregation of a local mosque in the area, further signalling his bid to be elected to the Manchester seat, vacant since the death of Sir Gerald Kaufman.
A source close to Galloway explained that the veteran leftwinger had picked the constituency because it fitted “perfectly” with his political ideals.
He said: “You’re looking at the perfect demographics – big Asian working class community, relatively poor. I think he thinks he can represent their feelings and aspirations.”
The source said the idea to run in Gorton formed around three to four weeks ago, saying: “He was always quite close to the previous incumbent. They always got on really well. They shared the same political ideals. That is what probably triggered it.
“He has spent a lot of time in Manchester and even if he doesn’t stand I’m sure he will be campaigning there.”
Galloway – originally a Labour MP before setting up his own party, Respect – confirmed he would be remaining in Manchester over the weekend.
In recent days his tweets and Facebook posts sparked speculation that he was preparing to stand. He has been seen out and about in both Rusholme and Levenshulme since last weekend. He also published a blog post for the site Westmonster about Labour’s Gorton selection process - in which he paid tribute to Kaufman and underlined his own personal ties to Manchester.
Galloway denied rumours of an electoral pact that he would only stand if North West MEP Afzal Khan was not selected for Labour – saying that was “untrue” and adding that he had never met him.
His potential candidacy will increase jitters within the local Labour party. So far more than half a dozen candidates have confirmed they will stand, with seven expected to attend a Unite hustings in the city on Friday evening.
Khan is considered the frontrunner by many in Labour’s selection process, which has now begun in earnest. This morning he also secured the backing of two trade unions, the CWU and the GMB.
Soon after Khan declared his intentions earlier this week he was followed by Manchester councillors Julie Reid and Mike Amesbury.
Rusholme councillor Rabnawaz Akbar also confirmed his candidacy on Friday. Sam Wheeler, whose name was circulated as the Labour leadership’s favoured candidate within hours of Kaufman’s death, is also understood to be applying.
Karl Eastham, a councillor in Southwark, London, has also declared. Other candidates expected to stand include Manchester councillors Amina Lone and Luthfur Rahman, but neither has so far confirmed.
Rahman, who is the chair of the Gorton CLP, was dismissive of Galloway’s intention to run. He said: “What he fails to understand is that this is Manchester Gorton and the elements he brings with him are not going to wash because the community here is very united. He is going to get the shock of his life. He already got one in Bradford and he will get the same here.”
The byelection is expected to take place on 4 May.