George Galloway was not expelled from Labour for opposing the Iraq war

Evening Standard interview repeats a common falsehood


An interview with London mayoral candidate George Galloway in the Evening Standard repeats a common falsehood about the ex-MP.

The piece, published yesterday, says:

“There’s talk that Galloway would like to re-enter the Labour fold — he was expelled in 2003 for ‘bringing the party into disrepute’ over his opposition to the Iraq war.”

The phrase ‘over his opposition to the Iraq war’ is used about Galloway routinely in every news outlet in the land.

However, it is false – or at best, very subjective.

Galloway was found guilty by a tribunal set up by the Labour party’s National Constitutional Committee in October 2003 of the following charges:

· 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

He was cleared of a fifth charge, that of ‘inciting Plymouth voters to reject Labour MPs’. Some of the charges related to a speech he had given to Abu Dhabi TV. As the Guardian reported:

“Mr Galloway told Abu Dhabi TV that the war in Iraq was illegal and urged British troops not to obey ‘illegal orders’.

And he asked: ‘Why don’t Arabs do something for the Iraqis? Where are the Arab armies? We wonder when the Arab leaders wake up? When are they going to stand by the Iraqi people?'”

Galloway denied all the charges, including that of calling for attacks on British troops, saying he was questioning why Arab regimes continued to supply Britain and the US with oil.

However, the phrase ‘Where are the Arab armies?’ suggests otherwise, since armies do not control oil exports.

After a two-day session looking at Galloway’s statements and actions, NCC panel chair Rose Burley said:

“the unanimous decision of the panel of the national constitutional committee found four of the five charges brought against Mr Galloway proven and the decision of the panel was that Mr Galloway be expelled from membership of the Labour party forthwith.”

Galloway also warned that other anti-war MPs would be next, naming Glenda Jackson and Bob Marshall-Andrews QC. However, no other MPs were charged with these actions.

Several Labour MPs were opposed to or critical of the Iraq war, including cabinet ministers like Robin Cook, who resigned on the point, and Clare Short, who campaigned against the war after she left office.

The assertion that Galloway was expelled from the Labour party ‘over his opposition to the Iraq war’ is at best subjective, and is inconsistent with the party’s decision and the experience of other members of parliament.

As NCC chairman Ian McCartney said at the time, the proceedings ‘came in direct response to an unprecedented number of complaints from party members and members of the public.’ He added:

“The issue here is a very simple one. 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 these comments.

“Any reasonable person would have been disgusted by this incitement and I believe the NCC reached the right verdict today.”

Galloway went on to stand against Labour as a Respect party candidate on three occasions: first in Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005, when he was successful, then in Poplar and Limehouse in 2010 when he came third, and again in a Bradford West by-election in 2012, which he won. He was defeated in this year’s general election by Labour’s Naz Shah MP.


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Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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17 Responses to “George Galloway was not expelled from Labour for opposing the Iraq war”

  1. robertcp

    Several Labour MPs were opposed to the Iraq war? Well over a 100 were opposed!

  2. ray vison

    He was just very vocal about it and rude about Blair. Corbin was so much more polite which is why he managed to survive all those years.

    Ken Livingstone was also expelled for opposing Blair (before the Iraq war) as were hundreds of Labour party members. Let’s not forget what a control freak he was.

  3. lcfcsr

    I’m glad George Galloway has nothing to do with Labour any more, I can’t stand him and don’t want him anywhere near Labour. However, that show trial was a complete hatchet job and the reasons for expelling him were false, however much it pains me to say. Galloway didn’t encourage troops to disobey British orders, he argued that troops should disobey illegal orders, which everyone should agree with and is the legal duty of all our armed forces, whether the orders they were receiving were illegal or not is another question, Galloway certainly believed so as do I as it happened, but the overall point that soldiers should disobey illegal orders is undeniable. Similarly he didn’t in my opinion incite Arabs to attack British troops, he simply argued that people have a right to defend themselves against an occupying force, whether or not we were an occupying force is again the question, but he is obviously right that people have a right to defend themselves against occupying forces. Pains me to say it, but he should never have been kicked out, reading the transcripts of the defense and the prosecution makes that clear, but tbf I can just about live with injustice when it’s happening to George Galloway!

  4. Mason Dixon, Autistic

    I’m not sure I follow this- the reasons for Galloway’s expulsion seem to simply match the Blairite spin on events, not things that actually happened. A soldier should not follow orders which are illegal, who disagrees with this? It ties into his comments about the actions of Iraq’s neighbours who assisted the invasion; any kind of support they were giving to what was an illegal act of aggression was just as illegal. Even in hindsight, it very much looked like a foregone conclusion where quotes were cherry-picked and taken in isolation to push a narrative about what Galloway stood for. So it is entirely sensible to say that Galloway was expelled for his opposition to the Iraq war.

  5. Rob Hoveman

    This must be one of the most absurd blogs in recent times in a highly competitive field. George Galloway was by far the most outspoken and effective parliamentary opponent of the Iraq War. He repeatedly declared any war on Iraq would be illegal and he was right. It was and it is an illegal war based on a set of lies and, as we now know, a predetermined decision by Bush and Blair urged on by Cheney and Rumsfeld.

    As the war on Iraq was illegal, George was quite right to call on British troops not to obey illegal orders. To do otherwise was not only to risk British lives, and sadly many soldiers did subsequently die in this illegal war, but to risk prosecution for war crimes.

    Whether or not George actually called on Arab armies to join in the defence of Iraq is contested but as the war on Iraq was both illegal and unjustified, costing hundreds of thousands and presaging the disaster which is the Middle East today, such a call to deter war on Iraq would have been entirely justified.

    As Labour MPs supported this illegal and unjustified war costing the lives of hundreds of thousands, there was also every justification for seeking to stand against those with blood on their hands, although I know of no evidence that George said that he would so stand prior to his expulsion and the blog provides none.

    And as for support for an anti-war candidate in Preston, my recollection is that George expressed support for that candidate only after his election rather than before and in the context of that candidate having worked closely with George in the anti-war movement.

    There is therefore justification for George’s alleged actions with regard to each and every “charge” brought against him. But even this is not the point. Each and every charge related to George’s vehement opposition to the war. Blair’s satraps on the National Constitutional Committee dutifully found him guilty and expelled him entirely on the basis of actions he took in opposition to the war and therefore for his opposition to the war.
    That is straightforward logic but a logic that apparently defies the reasoning of those who would seek to denigrate the current leader of the Labour Party and to continue to act as apologists for the likes of Blair and Straw who have so much blood on their hands and who should be in the Hague facing war crimes charges.

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