Respect leader quits after Galloway rape comments

Pic: Salma Yaqoob, right, with George Galloway, left. Pic: Richard Edkins

The leader of  Respect, the political party set up in Tower Hamlets in 2004, has resigned.

Salma Yaqoob said it was with “deep regret” she resigned from leadership, citing an “extremely difficult” period for the party in the last few weeks.

In a statement on the Respect website on Tuesday, Yaqoob said her decision to step down was made because “necessary relations of trust and collaborative working have unfortunately broken down.”

The party found itself at the centre of a controversy recently when Ms Yaqoob clashed with Respect MP George Galloway over his comments relating to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition case.

Galloway had suggested that the allegations of rape against Mr Assange amounted to “bad sexual etiquette” and “really bad manners”.

Yaqoob, a former councillor on Birmingham City Council, condemned the comments as “deeply disappointing and wrong”.

In a seperate statement today, Respect National Secretary Chris Chilvers thanked Yaqoob for her work with Respect and said they were “very sorry” that she is to leave.

Responses from politicians have caused speculation that she may continue to work in politics with another party.

Labour MP Dianne Abbot said on Twitter: “Labour right already hyperventilating at thought of @SalmaYaqoob joining party.”

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas said: “Really hope @salmayaqoob‘s resignation from Respect doesn’t mean she’s leaving politics – we need her clarity & vision”.

The Respect party was started in Tower Hamlets in 2004 and won several seats in east London including George Galloway’s 2005 win in Bethnal Green and Bow, which overturned a 10,000 Labour majority.

In December 2010 Respect’s Fozol Miah returned to office in Tower Hamlets in a Banglatown and Spitalfields ward by-election.

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