Controversial MP George Galloway this week formally initiated legal action against the National Union of Students, alleging that a recent no-platform motion passed by the union's National Executive Council was defamatory and demanding that NUS publicly apologise and pay his legal costs.
In a formal pre-action protocol letter seen by The Journal, solicitors acting for Mr Galloway said that the NEC motion "makes a number of allegations about our Client: firstly, that our Client is a rape denier as a matter of fact and secondly, that our Client blames and undermines rape victims as a matter of fact."
The letter, dated Monday 15 October, calls the allegations "extremely damaging but more importantly untrue," citing later attempts by Mr Galloway to clarify his position on rape.
It adds: "Our Client will not tolerate your organisation making highly damaging and defamatory comments about him."
Contacted by The Journal today, NUS declined to comment formally at this stage. One senior union source confirmed to The Journal that the union had received the letter and was considering its response, "We have now received communication from solicitors acting on behalf of George Galloway regarding policy passed by our NEC," they said. "We intend to respond in due course. We will not be commenting further at this time."
The PAP letter sent by Bradford-based Chambers Solicitors, representing Mr Galloway, is a formal precursor to legal action under the Defamation Act 1996. The letter demands "an undertaking that you will provide a written apology to our Client in relation to the allegations, in a form to be approved by us and which confirms that the allegations were untrue" and "confirmation that you will pay all costs that our Client has incurred in relation to this matter."
If NUS do not meet these demands by 4pm on Monday 29 October, the letter notes, Mr Galloway's lawyers "have instructions to commence proceedings in the High Court against your organisation without further reference."
Mr Galloway, recently elected as the Respect party's MP for Bradford West, has found himself embroiled in controversy in recent weeks, following remarks he made in an online video about the allegations of sexual assault made against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The disputed NEC motion added Mr Galloway to the NUS 'no platform' list, meaning that he is barred from NUS events and NUS officers will not participate in events with which he is affiliated.
Read the full text of the letter from Mr Galloway's lawyers here.
Additional reporting by Callum Leslie and Gareth Llewellyn.