George Galloway was met with rapturous applause at West Bromwich Working Men’s Social Club last night, as he officially kicked off his election campaign.
Mr Galloway is in the running to be the next MP for West Bromwich East - The former Respect Party leader is standing as an Independent candidate, on a pro-Brexit, pro-Corbyn platform.
His campaign launch comes just days after former MP for the area Tom Watson dropped out of the election race.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 50, Mr Galloway said: “We would already have a Labour leader in government if it had not been for Tom Watson and his gang stabbing the party in the back on a day by day basis.
"You don’t need me to tell you how badly this area is crying out for a champion. It’s an unemployment blackspot, a poverty blackspot, a crime blackspot, a homelessness blackspot.
"Has there ever been day three in a general election where Labour or Tory did not have representation? It’s a shambles. I’m quite happy about it.
"We have had enough of Tom Watsons.
"I’ve got a voice that God gave me and I will use it, I hope, to good effect. I just ask for that opportunity to use it for you.”
Speaking to the Express & Star before the meeting began, Mr Galloway said how impressed he was at the turnout.
"This place is packed,” he said. "That shows the hunger for change in the constituency, and that will not abate because the villain of the peace has run away from the fight.
"I think people want change from that kind of Labour representation."
Former MP for West Bromwich East Mr Watson announced this week that he was standing down from the general election, citing personal reasons.
Mr Galloway said he wished the former Labour deputy leader well, but that he believed Mr Watson had badly let the people of West Bromwich East down.
"I don't want to speak ill of him - he says he has personal reasons for leaving, of course as a human being and formerly a friend of his, I wish him a happy life but I can't avoid seeing how badly he’s let people down, and of course he’s let the Labour party down," said Mr Galloway, age 65.
"The local Labour party will now have no say at all in who their candidate is going to be, it'll be some parachutist from London if I'm lucky.”
Rumours have been circulating as to why Mr Watson dropped out of the race at the last minute - with some saying it was for political reasons - but Mr Galloway believes it was many different factors.
"I think it was, to quote Harold Macmillan, not one damn thing but one damn thing after another,” he added.
"It was the Brexit problem he has here, it was the Carl Beech affair, it was Harvey Proctor and it was me.
"I’m not saying he thought I would win although that would have been intolerable for him, but I think he felt that I would ensure that he would lose.
"And he couldn't bear to go out on a loss."
Mr Watson's decision to quit as an MP prompted another candidate, Harvey Proctor, to pull out of the race.
But Mr Galloway, who was kicked out of Labour in 2003 over comments he made regarding the Iraq war, said he was determined to continue.
"I've been campaigning now for many weeks, I’ve invested a lot of time and money into the campaign. So now that Labour will be putting up a lesser man or woman than Watson that seems to me obviously a reason for going on."
Mr Galloway will be speaking again at the Working Men's Social Club in Dudley Street on Friday, November 22, Friday, November 29 and Friday, December 6 at 7pm.