Galloway to stand against Labour after expulsion in row over Iraq

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The maverick MP George Galloway warned Tony Blair that he would "make sure he regretted" trying to silence him after he was expelled from the Labour Party yesterday.

The MP for Glasgow Kelvin reacted furiously after being thrown out and promised to stand as an independent against Labour. He said he would be a "thorn in Tony Blair's side". After being found guilty of four of five charges against him by a Labour Party disciplinary committee, he hinted he would appeal to the law courts. He also said he would consider triggering a damaging by-election contest in his Glasgow seat.

Mr Galloway, who urged British troops to disobey illegal orders during the war on Iraq, said the Labour hearings were a "show trial" and the decision to throw him out was "rigged in advance". He said: "It was a travesty of justice ... a politically motivated kangaroo court whose verdict was clearly written in advance."

The charges against Mr Galloway were understood to be: he incited Arabs to fight British troops; he incited British troops to defy orders; he threatened to stand against Labour; he backed an anti-war candidate in Preston - all of which he was found guilty - and he incited Plymouth voters to reject Labour MPs.

Yesterday he accused Mr Blair of being a liar and said he would focus his energy on attacking the Government.

"The Blair Government is increasingly unpopular," he said. "The majority of people believe we are governed by ... a conspirator and a liar."

Labour MPs and former ministers reacted angrily to the decision to throw the maverick MP out of the party and predicted the move could backfire. Some activists said yesterday they planned to tear up their membership cards in protest.

Mr Galloway's Labour constituency chairman, Mark Craig, said he would give Mr Galloway his "full support" if he stood against Labour as an independent in the new Glasgow Central seat in the next general election. He said: "I am disgusted by this decision, to put it mildly. How anybody can look at the charges against George and find him guilty, I don't understand".

Tony Benn, the left-wing former Labour MP and Cabinet minister who defended Mr Galloway during the hearings, predicted that the decision was "going to damage the Labour party very badly".

The left-wing, anti-war Labour MP Alice Mahon said the "stupid" expulsion of Mr Galloway would be seen by the public as "an attack on free speech".

John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, said it would look like the Labour Party is trying to stifle debate. He said: "We will be seen as flouting our tradition of democratic debate."

Mr Galloway can remain in the House of Commons but not on the Labour benches. If he decides to trigger a by-election in his Glasgow Kelvin seat, standing against Labour as an independent, it could split the local Labour Party and prove extremely damaging if Labour is defeated.

Mr Galloway could also wait until the next election when the boundaries of Scottish seats are expected to be redrawn.

The MP is confident he could beat Labour in the new Glasgow Central seat, where there are large numbers of Muslims who opposed the war.

But, yesterday, Ian McCartney, the Labour party chairman, said it was right to throw out the maverick MP after comments he made on the war on Iraq.

"The issue here is a very simple one" he said. "George Galloway incited foreign forces to rise up against British troops at a time when they were risking their lives. He was the only Labour MP to do this and he has never taken back or apologised for those comments.

"Any reasonable person would have been disgusted by this incitement and I believe the NCC [National Constitutional Committee] reached the right verdict today."

Mr Galloway, who submitted a 50-page defence document to the Labour Party, plans to talk to Labour MPs and activists, as well as members of the anti-war movement, before deciding whether to trigger a by-election.

He has ruled out joining another political party, such as the Scottish Nationalists, but is certain to challenge Labour as an independent.

The MP has been a member of the Labour party for 36 years and a Glasgow MP since 1987. He has attracted criticism for his decision to meet Saddam Hussein, and is currently fighting a libel action against the Daily Telegraph, which alleged he had received large sums from Saddam's regime.

Mr Galloway recently won a large pay-out from The Christian Science Monitor, which alleged he had been paid vast amounts of money by Iraq.

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