Galloway withdraws from Westminster contest

GEORGE Galloway, the rebel MP, announced yesterday that he will not stand for a Scottish seat at the next Westminster general election.

However, the former Labour MP hinted that he might like to stand for election to the Scottish Parliament in 2007.

The Glasgow Kelvin MP, who was expelled from the Labour Party last year, had been expected to contest one of the new Glasgow seats in the next Westminster election which have being created by the boundary changes.

But he said he did not want to stand against Mohammed Sarwar, who has got the Labour nomination for the disputed seat between their two constituencies.

Mr Galloway said his priority was to win a seat in the European Parliament in the 10 June European elections and he said he hoped to become an MP in a constituency south of the Border in the future.

He made the announcement in his weekly column for The Mail on Sunday.

He said: "I announce my impending withdrawal from the field after more than 35 years of short-sword fighting on the Scottish political front line.

"At the next general election, I will be stepping down from the Scottish parliamentary scene. I will not fight a Westminster election in Scotland again.

"On June 10, I hope to be elected to represent London in the European Parliament and I intend to try to win a seat in the House of Commons a little nearer to the Thames."

Mr Galloway, who was thrown out of Labour over his comments about the war in Iraq, tops the London list of the anti-war Respect Party for the 10 June election.

He said his decision was influenced by the fact that Mr Sarwar, a Muslim MP, looked set to become Labour’s candidate for the new Glasgow seat.

"Having stood by him all these years, I couldn’t now play a part in depriving a Muslim community, badly lacking representation, of one of the few representatives they have," Mr Galloway said.

Mr Galloway said he would vote for the Scottish Socialist Party on 10 June, but he ruled out joining their ranks because of the party’s support for Scottish independence.

His Labour Party membership was suspended after he accused Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and George Bush, the US president, of invading the Middle East nation like "wolves".

Mr Galloway stressed, however, that his decision to drop out of the Westminster contest did not mean he was disappearing from Scottish politics - hinting at an attempt to become an MSP.

He said the proportional representation system used for Holyrood elections made it an attractive option.

Mr Galloway said: "The list system of proportional representation does offer a possible re-entry into Scottish parliamentary politics.

"Someone with a reasonable level of support in Scottish public life, especially in Glasgow, can win a seat on the list system with something like 20,000 [votes], maybe even less. I’ll leave the door open."

Mr Galloway said he was aware that the next Holyrood elections were only three years away and finished with a clear hint that he was preparing for a return: "It’s not au revoir, more bientt," he said.