Ed Miliband's recent meeting with George Galloway in his Westminster office, revealed in the Mail on Sunday , has unsurprisingly caused consternation in Labour circles. Galloway, who was expelled from the party in 2003 for allegedly urging foreign forces to rise up against British troops (not, as is often mistakenly said, for his opposition to the war), is loathed by MPs and activists for defeating Labour in Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005 and in Bradford West last year, and, more recently, for suggesting that Julian Assange had only been accused of "bad sexual etiquette".
The line from the party is that the meeting was to discuss the recent vote on the constituency boundary changes, rather than any possibility of readmission. But one problem with this claim is that the vote in question was held on 29 January , while the meeting is said to have taken place a few weeks ago. Galloway is certainly hinting that there was more to the tête-à-tête than Labour suggests. After shadow international development secretary Ivan Lewis tweeted : "Re Galloway being allowed to join Labour,more chance of finding Lord Lucan riding Shergar! @Ed_Miliband abhors his values+divisive politics", Galloway replied : "better not tell lies about the meeting Ivan. Or I will have to tell the whole truth...". He later added: "oh......don't tempt me. Ed, rein these people in".
Incidentally, while Galloway vehemently denies that he has any desire to return to Labour, it is worth recalling what former Respect leader Salma Yaqoob had to say about the subject last year. She told the Guardian :
This is the irony – he's always said to me, 'if you have an approach, just make sure that I can come back in'. Ironically, that has not been on the cards. I think it's a great sadness to him, understandably, that he was expelled
That the meeting lasted for nearly an hour and that Miliband asked Galloway why he left Labour ("I didn’t leave, I was thrown out," he replied") certainly suggests that his relationship with the party was discussed.