George Galloway, the MP for Glasgow Kelvin was expelled after being found guilty of charges that he had urged British troops to defy illegal orders, incited Arab troops to fight British forces, and supported non-Labour anti-war candidates.
Dismay spread as the news that he was to be expelled broke on a Pakistani television channel an hour before the party’s disciplinary committee even told Galloway himself.
But the dissident MP vowed that he would fight on. “I’m not going away,” he told Aljazeera.net. “I’ll continue to speak my mind whether inside the Labour Party, or outside it, whether inside parliament or outside it.”
“They can’t solve the serious problem of the millions of people who opposed the war in Iraq by throwing me out for the ‘crime’ of having been one of the leaders of the anti-war movement.”
Galloway is now expected to stand at the next election as an independent.
Galloway speaks to Aljazeera.net
A Labour party spokesman, Eddie Morgan, denied that the expulsion was related to his opposition to the war on Iraq.
“That is complete and utter nonsense,” he told me. “The charge against him was not that he opposed the war but that he incited the troops of other nations to attack British soldiers.”
Morgan also denied charges Galloway levelled to reporters outside Swinton House that the hearing had been “a politically motivated kangaroo court”, or that the anti-war MP’s Glenda Jackson and Bob Marshall-Andrews would be next.
“There is no plan or intention whatsoever to take action against any of the MP’s Galloway named,” Morgan said. “And if it was a show trial, why did he come along with a QC and a barrister?”
Galloway’s supporters would say that he did so to try and defend himself. They believe he has been victimised for having once describing Tony Blair and George Bush as behaving “like wolves” in attacking Iraqi civilians.”
“I’m shocked and appalled that George could have been expelled after years of service to the party,” his fellow MP Jeremy Corbyn told me in a voice bristling with barely suppressed emotion.
“He was not inciting anyone to attack British troops. He was pointing out the dangers that British troops were placed in. He has been expelled because he opposed the war, and because he told the truth.”
In a worrying twist for Tony Blair, Corbyn also suggested that the move could lead to a split in the party. “I personally feel very sad and angry that my party has descended to these depths,” he said.
“I’m shocked and appalled that George could have been expelled after years of service to the party”
“The strength of the party has historically been its ability to represent a wide range of opinion. It is beginning to look as though that’s no longer the case.”
One Labour party grandee who spoke as a character witness for George Galloway in the hearings was the former energy minister Tony Benn. He told me the charge that Galloway had brought the party into disrepute had no validity.
“I think the war brought the Labour Party into disrepute,” he said. “It was a war of aggression and the people who were killed were victims of war crimes.”
He described George Galloway as “a principled and courageous man whose words had a resonance across the whole world.”
On the streets outside Swinton House, where the hearing took place, the anger among protestors had long been palpable. Henna Malik, an 18 year-old student said Galloway’s expulsion would send a message to British Muslims that their voices were not being represented.
Galloway contemplates his future
“Why shouldn’t our voices be counted?” she asked. “This isn’t just crushing the Muslim community, it’s crushing everyone who worked with us in the anti-war movement.”
The consensus in the Muslim community seemed to be that an MP who had taken a rare stand of principle on an issue close to his constituents’ hearts was being victimised for having had the bravery to speak out.
Anas al-tikriti, the spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain branded the proceedings as “ludicrous and absolutely shameful”. “It just shows that we need some democracy here in Britain before we try spreading it to the rest of the world,” he said.
“We had meetings with government ministers in the last couple of weeks, at which this issue came up but we feel that our representations were just ignored. We will always support George Galloway because he has stood by us.”
Al-tikriti warned that official indifference to the community would create a backlash.
“The Muslim community will take action at the next election as a result,” he said. “We are losing faith in this government’s seriousness to do what it pledges to the community behind closed doors.”
But he declined to give details about specific broken promises.
“The Muslim community will take action at the next election as a result”
Muslim Association of Britain
For the Stop the War Coalition, John Rees said, “I think it’s come to a very sad pass indeed when someone with as much guts and principles as George Galloway can’t stand as a Labour Party candidate.
“I am disappointed that more people in the Labour Party haven’t spoken out but then as we know, they don’t necessarily represent majority opinion in this country.”
The mood in the Labour party is that Tony Blair has for now rid himself of a turbulent priest who he once labelled “disgraceful and wrong”. But the party may one day look back wistfully on the days that ‘Gorgeous George’ was inside their tent, spitting out.