Jeremy Corbyn ally calls for George Galloway to be re-admitted to Labour party
A key ally of Jeremy Corbyn has called for George Galloway to be re-admitted to the Labour party.
Andrew Murray - who helped to run Labour's general election campaign - said it is "long past time" for the left-wing former MP to be brought back into the fold.
A Labour spokesperson refused to rule out re-admitting the former Respect leader to the party.
Mr Galloway was expelled in 2003 over comments he made against the Iraq war, including calls for British troops to "refuse to obey illegal orders".
According to the Morning Star, former Communist Party member Mr Murray - who is the Unite union's chief of staff - has described that decision as "vicious, illegal and disgraceful".
He also praised Mr Galloway for his role in "the leadership of the movement" through his opposition to the war.
Mr Murray's comments are significant as he is so influential on Jeremy Corbyn's thinking.
The pair are long-standing allies, with Mr Murray succeeding Mr Corbyn as chair of the Stop The War Coalition.
Mr Murray was a member of the Communist Party of Britain until last December, and told The Guardian in 2015: "Communism still represents, in my view, a society worth working towards – albeit not by the methods of the 20th century, which failed."
According to the New Statesman, he now splits his time between Unite's HQ and Mr Corbyn's office.
His appointment to Labour's election campaign team infuriated many within the party, but Mr Corbyn said: "Andrew Murray is a member of the Labour party and he is an official at Unite and he is temporarily helping us with the campaign.
"He is a person of enormous abilities and professionalism and is the head of staff of Unite the Union. To manage a very large union and a large number of staff takes special skills and Andrew has them."
Mr Corbyn added: "I don't believe that Andrew is anything other than a democratic socialist and a member of the Labour party, like me."
After being booted out by Labour, Mr Galloway was MP for Bethnal Green and Bow from 2005 until 2010, and for Bradford West between 2012 and 2015.
A former Labour minister told PoliticsHome: "George Galloway has organised against the Labour party, vilified our candidates and now someone who joined the party less than a year ago wants to welcome him back with open arms. It's shameful."
A Labour party spokesperson said: "Candidates who stand against Labour are normally ineligible for party membership for five years under Labour Party rules."