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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  7. treborc

    I see no issues with Galloway coming back and being allowed to stand as an MP’ let the people decide if they want him.

    Blair or Galloway easy one that one Galloway, Brown or Galloway easy again Galloway , Galloway or Osborne well I would not expect Galloway to get that far within the party Osborne , I would vote Corbyn all day.

    But labour is not a functioning party at the moment it’s split and it is badly damaged .

    I see labour have now elected a whole pile of progress types within the internal groups within labour, which means that Corbyn is going to need all the people he can get to protect his back.

  8. Allan D.

    Galloway has stood against Labour in 4 elections since 2005 abusing his Labour opponent especially viciously in 2015 questioning her claims that she had been the unwilling subject (at 15) of an arranged marriage in Pakistan:

    He also spoke in favour of the former Mayor of Tower Hamlets who was subsequently removed from his office by the High Court and claimed that the campaign against him, which Labour supported, was driven by racism and Islamophobia:

  9. Ruth Ben-Or

    You would vote Corbyn all day? If the Labour Party is sufficiently desperate to sell votes for £3, I’m sure they won’t mind some repeat business!

  10. David Lindsay

    George Galloway’s decision to take out the lease on a vintage clothes shop indicates that he is looking for an excuse to withdraw from the race for Mayor of London. He launched that campaign before there was the slightest suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn, who was one of his character witnesses against expulsion from the Labour Party, might ever become that party’s Leader.

    If it were not for that campaign, then Galloway would already be back in the Labour Party, and he would be preparing to contest a by-election in that interest as a small business owner. There was very strong support from that quarter for his successful campaigns at Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005, and at Bradford West in 2012.

    He is already more of a functioning Labour Party member than several people who were in the Shadow Cabinet two months ago.

  11. ericcartmanfat

    incomparable refutation, old boy

  12. ericcartmanfat

    he did not “viciously abuse” her as you absurdly allege. He challenged her claim to have been forced into marriage at the age of 15. A challenge which, to this day, she has failed to refute.

  13. ericcartmanfat

    The leader of the Labour party is one of his oldest friends and comrades, and he is in daily communication with Seumas Milne, so it goes too far to say that he has nothing to with Labour anymore. And Ken and Corbyn would be glad to have him back, if rumours and innuendo have any truth to them. Your defence of him, particularly in the light of your antipathy for him, is noble indeed. I salute you.

  14. ericcartmanfat

    every word in this paragraph is absolutely true and is beyond reproach

  15. ericcartmanfat

    this is so wrong-headed that one knows not where to start

  16. ericcartmanfat

    wise and wonderful contribution. Look who is sitting right next to him on the backbenches at every Galloway speech in Parliament for the last 20 years- none other than Mr Jeremy Corbyn. Galloway is a very useful counterpoint to Corbyn’s Zen monk approach- sometimes a party under siege needs to show teeth and claws.

  17. Allan D.

    Not in the slightest degree relevant to her politics. A dog-whistle to his more extreme Muslim followers which fortunately failed.

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