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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Respect candidate in frame

17 November 2010, from the Oldham Evening Chronicle

A Respect party candidate could fight the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election if ousted MP Phil Woolas loses his appeal today.

The party, founded by ex-Labour MP George Galloway, was holding a meeting to discuss the possibility at the Pakistani Community Centre on Sunday when it was attacked by the English Defence League.

Around 20 members of the far-right group stormed the meeting in Marlborough Street, Glodwick.

Up to 40 people were at the meeting at around 3.45pm including Mr Galloway and Yvonne Ridley, the former Fleet Street journalist who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and converted to Islam after her release.

Police say the action led to a large disturbance and four men were arrested on suspicion of affray.

It was the second time in three months police were called to deal with EDL action in Oldham.

In September, EDL supporters ran riot, bottles were thrown at police and eight people were arrested.

Sunday’s meeting had been advertised on the Respect Manchester website and Mr Galloway’s personal blog.

It was called “to defend public services and say no to racial division”.

The website added: “Respect stands for investment not cuts and we have a proud record of opposing racism and Islamophobia.”

No-one from Respect in Manchester was available to confirm whether a party candidate will be fielded if the by-election goes ahead.

The Liberal Democrats have confirmed that Elwyn Watkins will be their candidate if the poll goes ahead, and UKIP has selected Paul Nuttall.

The Tories say they will also contest it, despite their party’s coalition with the Lib-Dems in national government.

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