Vol. 5 Num 334 Sat. May 07, 2005  
Front Page

Oona King defeated

Muslim voters delivered a stinging rebuke to British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday over the Iraq war, voting a loyal member of his Labour Party out of office in favour of an anti-war candidate.

In a major upset, Blair loyalist Oona King -- who strongly backed the March 2003 conflict supported by the prime minister -- lost her Bethnal Green and Bow seat in east London to George Galloway from the left-wing Respect Party.

"Mr Blair, this is for Iraq. All the people you killed, all the lies you told have come back to haunt you and the best thing the Labour Party could do is sack you tomorrow morning as soon as they get back to work," Galloway told cheering supporters following the announcement.

Galloway, a former Labour deputy thrown out of the party for defying Blair over the war, specifically targeted King as her seat contains a high proportion of Muslim voters, mainly of Bangladeshi origin.

King, who is half-Jewish and half-black, won her seat in 1997 at only 30 years of age and proved a popular local MP, winning a 10,000-vote majority in the 2001 election.

However in Thursday's election, she lost out of Galloway by just over 800 votes.

Such a turnaround reflects the bitter feelings the Iraq war provoked in many British Muslims, as well as a fearsome campaign by Galloway.

The election battle between King and Galloway, a flamboyant political veteran known as "gorgeous George", was perhaps the most bitter individual fight in the entire election.

King accused Respect activists of spreading word among the 40-percent Muslim district that she was Jewish to hurt her chances, something Galloway's officials vehemently denied.

Unknown attackers threw eggs at King at a Holocaust memorial service, and she was later again pelted with eggs and had her car tires slashed by a gang of youths protesting her support for the Iraq war.

Galloway also placed himself under heightened security after being threatened with death by a group of Islamic extremists.