The war of words between George Galloway and the Labour party in Bradford West is threatening to spill over into legal action over claims that Naz Shah, who is standing for Labour, lied about being forced into an underage and sexually abusive marriage.
The mother of three from Bradford has previously claimed she was coerced into marrying her cousin in Pakistan before being sexually and physically abused, the Mail reports.
But Mr Galloway’s Respect Party claims to have a copy of her marriage certificate, which is in Urdu, showing that she actually married in 1990 when she was 16 and a half and accused Ms Shah of having “only a passing acquaintance with the truth.”
He produced the document at a hustings on Wednesday night and, to applause, accused her of playing into negative stereotypes about Pakistan and even accusing her of slandering the British Pakistani community.
The ethnic Pakistani population in the City of Bradford is over 30 percent, meaning that the minority vote has to be secured by the winning candidate. Bradford has one of the highest unemployment rates in England, with the economic inactivity rates of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups standing at over 50 percent of the working age population and so traditionally areas of the city have been strongly Labour supporting, until the 2012 by election.
Ms Shah has hit back at the Scotsman, who is defending a majority of 10,000, saying there are two copies of her Nikah (marriage certificate): one, dated 1990 which the Respect party has and one dated 1988.
A spokesman for the Labour Party said that Ms Shah was forced into marriage aged 15, but that her husband wanted to come to the UK on a spouse visa. They say because of this, a second marriage certificate was needed which showed Shah was over the age of 16 when she married, since the British authorities do not recognise marriages to people under the age of 16.
They added: “George Galloway is an absentee MP who has failed to stand up for, and has nothing positive to offer to, the people of Bradford West.
“He is instead resorting to desperate untruths about Labour’s candidate. We have written to him to warn him that we believe his conduct to be a breach of election law.
“While George Galloway spends his time seeking to divide our community, Naz Shah and Labour will continue to show people that she will be a strong voice for Bradford West.”
The party went on the offensive against Mr Galloway, accusing Respect of getting a copy of the certificate by sending someone to the registry office to pose as Ms Shah’s father, who died several years ago. But this claim was rebutted by a spokesman who said the allegations were “totally and utterly untrue” and their contact in Pakistan had simply requested the certificate and paid five rupees.
“We were given a copy of the nikah by a close family member in this country so we decided to check whether this was genuine,” he said.
Labour said they had complained to the Electoral Commission about Mr Galloway’s behaviour, saying he had made false statements about Ms Shah, and warned for him not to repeat them.