Galloway shows disrespect to his party
Friday 25 January 2008
George Galloway is to stand on an "Old Labour" ticket for the London Assembly in another attempt to form a new political force after splitting from Respect, the left-wing coalition that he helped to found.
The maverick MP, who fell out with the anti-war coalition after forming the breakaway group "Respect Renewal" and holding an "alternative conference" last November, is to stand for the elections in May as part of an as-yet-unnamed "progressive list".
The MP for Bethnal Green and Bow has been at the centre of a series of internal splits within Respect, which formed in 2004. He has been opposed by sections of the Socialist Worker Party who – along with critics on the right – accuse him of alliances with "radical Islamists".
The divisions go back to the 2005 general election, when Mr Galloway managed against the odds to defeat the Labour MP Oona King, overturning her 10,000-strong majority to win by 823 votes. The campaign was dogged by claims of dirty tricks. Supporters of Ms King – who backed the Iraq invasion – accused Mr Galloway's supporters of anti-Semitism after some groups highlighted the fact that his opponent was part-Jewish.
There was confusion last night as to whether Mr Galloway was officially still a member of Respect. He claimed that he was, according to a report on the BBC website. But John Rees, the general secretary, emphatically denied Mr Galloway was a member. "He effectively left last November when he held a rival conference," Mr Rees said. "If you stand on a slate against Respect you must be a rival organisation."
Mr Galloway could not be contacted last night.
Respect said it was not informed of Mr Galloway's latest breakaway move.
Asked about the attitude of Respect members towards Mr Galloway, Mr Rees cited the MP's appearance in the television programme Celebrity Big Brother and said: "George wasn't very accountable. [He] wasn't really willing to work collectively with people... There were always disagreements."
Mr Galloway – who was thrown out of Labour in 2003 and originally pledged to leave the Commons at the next election – is said to be planning to contest the redrawn seat of Poplar and Limehouse at the next election, challenging the Transport minister, Jim Fitzpatrick.
Mr Galloway is rarely seen at Westminster. He was thrown out of the Commons for 18 days in July last year during a debate over the decision by the Committee for Standards and Privileges to censure him over the use of taxpayer-funded facilities. Continuing his speech to the media outside, he said: "Being lectured by the current House of Commons on the question of funding political campaigns is like being accused of having bad taste by Donald Trump; [or] like being accused of slouching by the Hunchback of Notre Dame."
Let us know what you think at: independent.co.uk/galloway
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