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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 12:40 GMT
Galloway warns of 'revolution'
George Galloway MP
Galloway: Even the 'usual suspects' are rebelling.
The whiff of revolution is alive on Labour's backbenches with whispered talk of a leadership challenge and growing opposition to its support of a threatened US-led attack on Iraq, according to a staunch critic of Tony Blair.

Left-winger George Galloway claims normally loyal backbenchers have even mooted the need for a Cabinet reshuffle, such is the disquiet among normally loyal Labour MPs.

The talk of the tearoom was of the need for a reshuffle and from two members, of a leadership challenge

George Galloway
Labour MP

The Glasgow Kelvin MP, a thorn in the government's side when it comes to talk of possible action against Iraq, accepts that the discussions are not serious.

But in an article in the The Spectator, he suggests that the fact that these debates are taking place among those not classed as "the usual suspects" should mark Mr Blair's card.

Backroom gossip

Recalling the occasion, he wrote: "The other night, for the first time in eight years at what used to be the 'miners' table', now slung low with former social workers and ex-council chiefs, the talk of the tearoom was of the need for a reshuffle and from two members, of a leadership challenge.

"Nobody died or even gasped as the first green shoots emerged among the toast and tea.

"'Gordon needs to start putting his foot down,' said one, 'and a stalking horse run from a respected figure on his way out and with no interest in the ermine, should mark Blair's card'."

Describing the change in attitude among the Labour backbenchers, he said: "Even the once-undifferentiated ranks are now showing signs of getting out of step.

Revolution is in the air and what bliss it is to be alive

George Galloway
Labour MP

"Where, in previous wars, a shiver ran along the green benches looking for a spine to run up, the troopers are no longer obeying orders.

"They are not going to follow George `Nuke 'Em All' Bush and Dick 'Lon' Cheney, the American Warwolf who was in London this week."

Mr Galloway added: "Revolution is in the air and what bliss it is to be alive."

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It hasn't been a great start to the second term, as Mr Blair implicitly acknowledged when he relaunched his credo in the centre of London just the other day.

"Undoubtedly, the opposition to the proposed American war in the Middle East has crystallised a lot of nascent opposition to the current drift of policy and management inside the Parliamentary Labour Party - not hitherto a revolutionary body of men and women.

Worms' turning?

"For the first time in eight years, there was in the tea-room the other night talk amongst people whose names I don't even know, so far from the list of usual suspects' they are, about the urgent need for a reshuffle and relaunch of the Government.

"There was even talk from two members - neither of them on the official usual suspects list - about the possibility of a leadership challenge, and that sort of mutinous talk.

"I'm not suggesting even light-heartedly that there is any such thing in the offing, but the fact that these conversations are taking place, and that more than 100 Labour MPs have put their names to a parliamentary motion saying no war on Iraq, shows that people are just not happy.

"The whips and the top brass in the New Labour army must be vividly aware of that."

Backbenchers were also upset about rows over donations to Labour by steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal and Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, the part-privatisation of air traffic control and the Millennium Dome, said Mr Galloway.

Black booked

The MP also used his Spectator diary to express his annoyance at junior foreign office minister Ben Bradshaw who accused him of being a "mouthpiece" of Saddam Hussein in the Commons last week.

Mr Galloway had retorted to the jibe by calling Mr Bradshaw a "liar".

Both apologised in the Commons the following day.

But Mr Galloway made plain that he does not consider the incident closed.

He wrote: "When the red mist descended on me you can be sure it was no ordinary clash over a 50-50 ball, but a cynical over-the-top tackle from a minister whose apology I've had to accept, but whose name has still gone into my little black book."

See also:

04 Mar 02 | UK Politics
MP wants Iraq 'threat' published
04 Mar 02 | Europe
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04 Mar 02 | Americas
Analysis: Last stand or long war?
02 Mar 02 | South Asia
Picture gallery: New Afghan army
28 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair hints at Iraq action
06 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Iraq prompts MP shouting match
07 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Slanging match MPs apologise
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