Labour gives Galloway a 'final warning'

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Indy Politics
THE LABOUR MP George Galloway has received a 'severe reprimand' from his party leadership after honouring President Saddam Hussein on Iraqi television.

The party said yesterday that Mr Galloway had 'created offence and embarrassment both to the relatives of victims of the Gulf war and to the Labour Party'. His 'final warning' from Derek Foster, the Chief Whip, came after his unauthorised trip turned the spotlight away from Tory party troubles for the first time in weeks.

In spite of Mr Galloway's protests that his words had been taken out of context and his salute to 'your courage, strength and indefatigability' was meant for the Iraqi people and not Saddam, Mr Galloway issued a 'full apology'. He also expressed 'deep regret for any offence or pain that may unwittingly have been given to families of British victims of the Gulf war'. He undertook 'without reservation' to respect all further whipping instructions.

Yesterday, John Major condemned Mr Galloway's actions during Prime Minister's Questions as foolish. He said Saddam was guilty of atrocities against his own people. 'There is nothing to be said for him and nothing should be said for him by a member of this house.'

The Tory MP Emma Nicholson said she was appalled that the Labour Party had not withdrawn the whip from Mr Galloway, cutting him off from all party activities at Westminster and calling into question his position as an official Labour Party candidate at the next election.

She spoke of the torture and suffering of the Marsh Arabs at the hands of Saddam's regime. 'Although Mr Galloway is of no relevance to anyone here, he has given comfort to the enemy,' she said during a BBC radio interview.

The Labour Party leadership insisted it regarded the matter as extremely serious. Dr Jack Cunningham, shadow Foreign Secretary, said: 'George Galloway's behaviour was deplorable . . . There is no way back. If he does not adhere to the undertakings his position in the Parliamentary Labour Party would be finished.'

One factor behind the decision to give Mr Galloway one last chance cited by senior Labour MPs last night was that it could widen the theoretical Tory majority in the Commons. The numbers are crucial in deciding the political balance of standing committees on Bills and Labour is pressing to ensure that the Scottish local government Bill standing committee should have a Tory majority of only one, which would require all Tory members to be present at all times.

The MP for Glasgow Hillhead has courted controversy abroad before. In 1987, his departure as general secretary of the Third World charity War on Want was marred by a dispute over expenses claims.

The charity's accountants eventually ruled that lack of procedures and controls, not impropriety on Mr Galloway's part, was at the root of the problem. But at a press conference held during the dispute, Mr Galloway confessed to having extra-marital sex on the Greek island of Mykonos in 1985 while attending a conference on the African famine.

Mr Galloway, whose dapper appearance and groomed good looks have earned him the nickname Gorgeous George, fought off moves to have him removed from his Glasgow Hillhead constituency. He said the ranks of the House of Commons would be thin if every MP who had an affair before he was elected was forced to resign.

(Photograph omitted)