George Galloway's 'rape' comments: merely the latest outburst from the rebel with a cause

George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bradford West, has been criticised for saying the allegations of sexual assault against Julian Assange "don't constitute rape... even if 100% true".

George GallowayLewis Whyld, PA Wire

His remarks, which he has defended, are merely the latest salvo in the career of one of the country's most controversial politicians.

Galloway was a thorn in the side of all the Labour leaders he served under at Westminster until he was booted out of the party in 2003.

But he quickly bounced back, founding Respect and going on to win the former Labour stronghold of Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005, and Bradford West in 2012.

Expulsion

After publicly accusing Tony Blair and President George W Bush of acting "like wolves" in invading Iraq, Mr Galloway had been expelled from the Labour party in 2003.

Typically, he responded robustly to his expulsion by saying it was done "by a kangaroo court whose verdict had been written in advance in the best tradition of political show trials".

But he wasted no time after his expulsion in announcing that he would be working with the Socialist Alliance and others under the name RESPECT Unity Coalition.

Galloway won the seat of Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005, but failed in the subsequent general election of 2010 to win the neighbouring seat of Poplar and Limehouse.

'Gorgeous George'

Mr Galloway was born on 16 August 1954 in, to use his own words, "an attic in a slum tenement in the Irish quarter of Dundee which is known as Tipperary".

After leaving Harris Academy, Dundee, he worked for a garden centre and then for Michelin tyres. In 1977 he was appointed a Labour Party organiser and soon became known for his firebrand speeches. At the age of 26 he became chairman of the Scottish Labour Party, one of the youngest in history.

Mr Galloway won Glasgow Hillhead - ousting the hated Roy Jenkins, one of the new Social Democrat Party's Gang of Four - in 1987 but faced an almost immediate scandal.

He was asked about a conference in Mykonos in Greece and replied: "I travelled and spent lots of time with people in Greece, many of whom were women, some of whom were known carnally to me. I actually had sexual intercourse with some of the people in Greece."

That earned him the sobriquet "Gorgeous George" and put him on all the front pages. The executive committee of his local party passed a vote of no confidence in him in February 1988. He only narrowly survived to win reselection the following year.

Foreign interests

Overseas, he had taken a special interest in Libya, Pakistan, Iraq and Palestine.

And he once said "the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life - if there was a Soviet Union today, we would not be having this conversation about plunging into a new war in the Middle East, and the US would not be rampaging around the globe".

In 1998 he founded the Mariam Appeal to campaign against sanctions on Iraq. It was named after a child, Mariam Hamza, flown to Britain to be treated for leukaemia. The fund was subject to scrutiny in 2003, but the Charities Commission rejected allegations that funds had been misused.

Galloway's contacts with Saddam Hussein earned him the nickname "the honourable member for Baghdad Central" and his bull-in-a-china-shop approach to every issue he pursued were a constant source of embarrassment for Labour.

In a Commons Westminster Hall debate on Iraq in 2002, he called foreign office minister Ben Bradshaw a liar after Bradshaw accused him of being a mouthpiece for the Iraqi regime. The sitting was suspended but Bradshaw later withdrew his accusation and Mr Galloway apologised.

Earlier, in 1994, Mr Galloway caused outrage when he was filmed telling Saddam Hussein: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability." He claimed that the praise was intended for the Iraqi people collectively.

Forming Respect

Mr Galloway remained typically fiery after his expulsion from the Labour Party, amid fears that he would resign and create a by-election in his Glasgow Kelvin seat, which Labour privately admitted they probably would have lost.

What he said sent a shiver down the spine of Labour: "If I were to resign the constituency and there was a by-election, I can't guarantee that I would win, but I would guarantee that Tony Blair's candidate would surely lose."

To the party's intense relief, he did not carry out this threat. But he served notice that at the next election he would fight Bethnal Green and Bow, where Labour's sitting MP, Oona King, had supported the Iraq war.

On the small screen

George Galloway on Celebrity Big BrotherRex Features

He achieved notoriety for his conduct in the the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2006. There he demonstrated his ability to change from roaring political tiger to timid domestic cat by pretending to purr and lick cream from actress Rula Lenska's hands on the show.

He also hosted a phone-in TV programme broadcast on the Iranian international news network Press TV which was criticised in 2010 by the broadcasting watchdog for breaching impartiality rules. Ofcom investigated after Mr Galloway's weekly, one-hour English-language programme, Comment, sparked complaints that it was biased against Israel.

In 2011 he said he might end his political career in Scotland if he secured a seat in that year's Scottish Parliament election. But his bid failed, leading him to stand in the byelection in Bradford West in March 2012.

Here, in one of the most astonishing comebacks of recent political history, Galloway defied expectations and pundits to win the seat on a landslide. He quickly dubbed the result "the Bradford Spring", in an echo of 2011's Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East and north Africa.

Back in the headlines

Galloway's notoriety brought him to the attention of the tabloids and earlier this year he accepted £25,000 in damages from News Group Newspapers after it admitted that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire intercepted messages left on his mobile phone.

Now he is back in the headlines again thanks to his comments concerning Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who is seeking asylum in Ecuador rather than face questioning in Sweden over alleged sexual offences.

Galloway will relish taking on those who have criticised his remarks - as he has relished every battle he has fought throughout his life.