George Galloway has waded into the row over a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, tweeted by Lib Dem hopeful Maajid Nawaz, by vowing his party will fight him for the seat of Hampstead and Kilburn.
He also dismissed the area's Labour hopeful Tulip Siddiq as a "New Labour apologist" and criticised her family's ties Bangladesh's Awami League, the ruling party. The seat in north west London is held by Labour's Glenda Jackson, by one of the smallest margins in the country - just 42 votes. Jackson will retire in 2015.
TOP STORIES TODAY
Respect will take the Hampstead and Kilburn fight right to rancid Maajid Nawaz and the New Labour apologist for Awami League...— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) January 27, 2014
Applications are invited to be Respect candidate at the General Election in the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency firstname.lastname@example.org— Respect Party (@ukrespectparty) January 27, 2014
@georgegalloway Brilliant news George!! There is definitely a need for an honourable candidate in that constituency. You have our support !— Gazza Princess (@Gazza_Princess) January 27, 2014
The announcement is likely to give a boost to the Conservative candidate Cllr Simon Marcus, as Galloway pledged to split the Labour and Lib Dem votes. The seat is the Conservatives' number one target.
More than 21,000 people signed the petition to remove Nawaz as the potential Lib Dem candidate.
The row began when Quilliam Foundation's Nawaz, whose think-tank was credited with Tommy Robinson's departure from the EDL, tweeted a 'Jesus and Mo' cartoon, stating he was not offended by the content.
Nawaz has since said he has received "credible" death threats over the tweet.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, both Nawaz and the Ramadan Foundation's Mohammed Shafiq, who led the charge for his dismissal. agreed to call off the war of words that has raged for days on social media and the blogosphere.
Shafiq and Nawaz have since retracted that statement and continued to row on social media, after an op-ed printed in the Guardian by Nawaz, defending his decision to tweet the cartoon. Nawaz alleged on Twitter that Shafiq had messaged supporters, assuring them that he had not really meant the words in the joint statement.
Former Lib Dem party leader Paddy Ashdown is understood to have been appointed by leader Nick Clegg to put an end to the furore, calling a meeting with party officials.
Clegg has defended Nawaz’s right to send the personal tweet, saying the Lib Dems were a “party of respect, tolerance and individual liberty”.