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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 November 2007, 19:18 GMT
Rival events for Respect factions
George Galloway
George Galloway won his seat for Respect in 2005
A split within the ranks of the anti-war Respect coalition has led to the party holding two separate conferences on the same day.

The two factions comprise MP George Galloway and his supporters on one side and representatives of the Socialist Workers' Party on the other.

Mr Galloway spoke at the Respect Renewal conference in London on Saturday.

The event was billed as an opportunity for members to discuss the split.

The division is believed to centre on arguments around candidate selection and internal democracy.

BBC political correspondent Gary O'Donohue attended both of the conferences and spoke to representatives of both factions.

Locks changed

He said that, at one stage two weeks ago, relations reached a new low when one faction changed the locks to the party's headquarters in east London to stop their rivals getting in.

A statement on the Respect website said the Respect conference was "full to overflowing", and added that "due to extraordinary circumstances" the conference will concentrate on how to move forward following internal disputes.

Film director Ken Loach, a friend and supporter of Mr Galloway, said: "We have to move forward, and we can move forward - but not with the present structure".

John Rees, the SWP's national secretary, blamed Mr Galloway for the split and criticised the decision to hold a separate conference.

He said: "I fought very hard to get George Galloway elected. I don't think he had a problem then, but I think he does have a problem when there's a political disagreement.

"I think the proper way to solve it, is to come to the properly constituted Respect conference and to argue them out in front of the delegates elected by the members. I don't think the right way to do it is to split off on the same day and hold another conference."

'Learn lessons'

According to a circular sent to members by Respect Renewal, that conference would be "an opportunity to reflect on the mistaken methods and lack of political vision that have led to the split in Respect and to learn lessons on how to work together and with others in the future".

A critic of the war in Iraq, Mr Galloway was expelled from Labour in 2003 for bringing the party into disrepute.

Standing for the Respect Party in 2005, he won the Westminster seat of Bethnal Green and Bow from Labour's Oona King.

He was previously MP for Glasgow Hillhead and Glasgow Kelvin, having first been elected to Parliament in 1987.



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