Labour poised to expel Galloway

GEORGE Galloway, the outspoken Glasgow MP, is expected to be expelled from the Labour Party this week after being accused of inciting Arabs to fight British troops.

That is just one of five separate charges which have been made against Mr Galloway who will be asked to explain his conduct to a panel from the Labour Party’s National Constitution Committee on Wednesday.

He is also accused of inciting British troops to disobey orders, appealing to voters to oppose Labour candidates, threatening to stand as an independent candidate and supporting an anti-war candidate.

If, as expected, the panel finds Mr Galloway guilty of "engaging in conduct" which has harmed the party, he will be expelled from the Labour Party immediately.

The three-person panel will hear from Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee, which suspended Mr Galloway and which has brought the charges against him. It will also hear from Mr Galloway and his legal representatives.

The hearing is not expected to last for more than one day and the panel’s decision might be announced on the same day.

But yesterday the Glasgow Kelvin MP hit back, branding Wednesday’s hearing a "political showtrial" and calling on Tony Blair to resign.

Mr Galloway also claimed the decision of the panel had already been made by the Prime Minister and he also promised to continue to speak out against the war in Iraq, either from inside or outside the party.

Mr Galloway’s strong anti-war views have caused problems for the Labour leadership for some time and he was suspended from the party six months ago after comparing George Bush and Tony Blair to "wolves" after the invasion of Iraq.

Labour Party officials insisted yesterday that he was not facing expulsion for expressing anti-war views, but for more serious offences of inciting Arabs to fight British troops and publicly opposing Labour candidates.

Mr Galloway, however, has portrayed his battle with the Labour leadership as a fight to preserve free speech.

Speaking to BBC Scotland’s Politics Show, Mr Galloway said: "It’s a showtrial, it’s a political showtrial in Great Britain in 2003, a showtrial of a four-times elected Scottish member of parliament by a three-person tribunal with the power to, they hope perhaps, effectively remove me from the political stage."

Mr Galloway said he was being punished "not for anything I have done, but for things that I have said, things that I have said that I have truly believed".

The MP said he believed the decision on his expulsion would be taken by the party leadership, not the three-person panel.

He said: "I don’t believe that these three people will make the decision; Tony Blair will make the decisions and he I’m sure has engineered a majority on the NCC for whatever decision he has made."

Mr Galloway also made it clear he remained totally unrepentant over his outspoken attacks on the party leadership.

He said: "Every comment I have made before, during and since the war I stand by and I am apologising for nothing."

And he added: "I am prepared to accept an apology from him [Mr Blair], I am prepared to accept an apology from the Labour Party for suspending me from the party I have been in for 36 years for now more than six months on absolutely bogus, trumped-up charges.

"I am prepared to forgive them for that but they will have to apologise."

Mr Galloway insisted he wanted to remain in the Labour Party, but he would not betray the anti-war movement by backing down.

"I can’t apologise for something I didn’t do and I can’t demoralise the very significant number of supporters the stop-the-war movement has in this country by appearing to save my own political skin to bow the knee to a Prime Minister who should be bowing the knee to us. He should be apologising to us and he should be resigning."

He warned that he would continue to fight for his believes, inside or outside the party, hinting that he may fight the next election as an independent if expelled from the Labour Party on Wednesday.

"I am not going to go away, whether inside the Labour Party or outside and whether inside parliament or outside, I intend to go on fighting for my political beliefs. I hope it’s inside but if necessary it will be outside."

Mr Galloway does have the support of three big-name Labour figures. Michael Foot, the former party leader, Tony Benn, the veteran left-winger and Tony Woodley, the new General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, have all submitted statements in his defence.

Trouble never far away from the maverick

IF THERE is one event which sealed George Galloway’s nickname as "the honourable member for Baghdad Central", it was an audience with Saddam Hussein in 1994.

In front of the world’s television cameras, Mr Galloway faced the Iraqi dictator and declared: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability."

Mr Galloway insisted afterwards he had been referring to the Iraqi people but, for many in the Labour Party, he had gone too far.

Mr Galloway’s support for the causes of Palestinians and Iraqis, in particular, had been vocal for some time, but his decision to praise Saddam Hussein in the wake of the first Gulf war was extreme even for him.

It was a chance meeting with a young Palestinian man when he was 23 that proved to be the starting point for Mr Galloway's deep interest in the politics and traumas of the Middle East. The youth dropped into a local Labour Party office and pleaded the case for a Palestinian state, and Mr Galloway was hooked.

As organiser of the Dundee Labour Party in the 1980s, Mr Galloway visited a Palestinian refugee camp, twinned Dundee with Nablus in the West Bank and even went as far as flying the Palestinian flag over Dundee town hall for a while.

Then, in 1987, he got his big political break, defeating the SDP’s Roy Jenkins to become the Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead.

However, trouble was never very far away and Mr Galloway first had to fight to clear his name through the courts over allegations of misuse of funds from the War on Want campaign he fronted and then deny allegations that he had personally benefited from Pakistani government support for an Asian magazine.

As a backbencher Mr Galloway became an almost immediate vocal and, at times, controversial figure.

In 2002, he caused the first-ever suspension of Westminster Hall when he refused to withdraw his allegation that Ben Bradshaw, the Foreign Office minister, was "a liar". Bradshaw had described him as "a mouthpiece to the Iraqi regime over many years".

And Mr Galloway was suspended from the Labour Party six months ago for describing Tony Blair and George Bush as "wolves" on Arab television.

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