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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Oona King denounces intimidation
Oona King
Oona King says she faced anti-Semitic abuse
Political intimidation surfaced in the Bethnal Green and Bow election campaign in a way that should worry people across the UK, says ex-MP Oona King.

Ms King last week saw her 10,000 majority overturned by Respect leader, and ex-Labour MP, George Galloway.

In the first interview since her defeat, she described the contest as "one of the dirtiest campaigns we have ever seen in British politics".

Mr Galloway has complained the way the election was run was a "shambles".

'Racist abuse'

The Respect MP beat Ms King by just 823 votes.

Ms King told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she had faced anti-Semitic abuse during the campaign.

"I was fairly shocked by the levels to which it sank," she said.

My biggest fear had always been that I would win and then do a Gwyneth Paltrow or something and just completely lose it
Oona King
Ex-Labour MP

"The thing that I am proudest of in this country is that we have a political system where political intimidation doesn't exist.

"That actually for the first time came to the fore in Bethnal Green and Bow and I think people around the country should be worried about it."

Ms King, who is black, said the fact her mother was Jewish had come up repeatedly "in a quite disturbing way".

"As a kid it was always 'oi, you nigger', 'you wog' and all the rest of it and now it was 'yids', 'you Jewish bitch, get out of here', all of that sort of stuff."

Halal meat

Ms King denied her loyalty to Tony Blair had proved decisive in the constituency, which has a large Muslim population.

She had argued for Saddam Hussein to be toppled in 1999 and had stuck to her view, she said.

George Galloway and supporters
Mr Galloway says he will hound Tony Blair out of office

The war had been a big election issue, she said, but false claims in the Bangladeshi press that she wanted to get rid of halal meat had also been a factor.

Ms King said she had been convinced she would hold the seat.

"My biggest fear had always been that I would win and then do a Gwyneth Paltrow or something and just completely lose it," she said.

'Banana republic'

She argued it was "insulting" to suggest Mr Galloway should not have stood against her because she was a black woman.

Any mistakes by the local council over the electoral register had been "cock up rather than conspiracy", she said.

She called Mr Galloway's attack on the election's organisers "insane", saying returning officer Christine Gilbert had refused Labour's request for a recount.

At the count, Mr Galloway criticised Ms Gilbert for presiding over a "shambles of an election which would disgrace a banana republic".

Tower Hamlets council electoral office was also criticised for publishing an electoral roll "so shot through with errors and anomalies... as to be almost meaningless".

'Smears'

Mr Galloway's spokesman, Ron McKay, said Ms King's claims were "ludicrous" and said Respect had not been involved in any racist abuse.

"She and the Labour Party were guilty of smears throughout the campaign and as far as I can see she has made another one," he said.

Mr McKay said it had been Ms King who had mentioned her Jewish family background during the campaign.

Celebrating his victory, Mr Galloway thanked Ms King for her work for the constituency and said she was an able person who would return to Parliament.

"It was not her defeat. It was a defeat for Tony Blair and New Labour for all of the betrayals," he added.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Oona King reflects on a 'dirty fight'




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