ERIC Joyce, the embattled MP for Falkirk, has denied claims he had a secret affair with a 17-year-old Labour volunteer as disaffection for him within the party deepened still further.

The 51-year-old father-of-two, who is already facing allegations of assaulting Conservative MP Stuart Andrew at the House of Commons, said he would be taking legal advice about the latest headlines about him.

While Falkirk Constituency Labour Party is awaiting the outcome of the court case due before the summer, talk locally is increasingly of a future Westminster by-election; Mr Joyce, who has represented the constituency since 2000, has a majority of 7843.

Local sources said the backbencher had become "toxic" for Labour, which is fearful that the controversy surrounding him will contribute to the party losing control of Falkirk Council at the local elections in May.

Labour, which runs it with the help of the Conservatives, currently has just one more councillor than the SNP, so a tight contest is expected.

Some local Labour activists have already called on Mr Joyce to "do the right thing" and step down, saying they expect the highest standards of behaviour in their MP.

In a separate development, friends of George Galloway told The Herald yesterday that the former Respect MP was eyeing up the prospect of standing in a future contest. "He would certainly consider it," one said.

It was pointed out Mr Galloway had "a lot of friends and contacts" in Falkirk, had visited the constituency often and was due to speak there in the next month or so. It was also noted how there was a "long-standing gripe" between the ex-MP and Mr Joyce over the latter's role in promoting Tony Blair's arguments for the Iraq War.

The chances of Mr Joyce returning to the Labour fold appeared even more distant yesterday following the allegations of an inappropriate relationship with the 17-year-old party volunteer.

Meg Lauder, now 19, worked as an election helper at the then Labour candidate's campaign headquarters.

"The story is not true and I will be taking legal advice this morning," declared Mr Joyce, saying: "I do know Meg and she did work for me during the election."

Asked if they had a sexual relationship, the MP, who is separated from his second wife, replied: "No." He also denied seeing her since the 2010 election, contradicting a claim they had had a two-year relationship.

Mr Joyce was already in bad favour with the Labour leadership following the alleged incident in the Strangers Bar at the House of Commons last week.

The former Army major is due before West London magistrates next Wednesday charged with three counts of common assault.

Johann Lamont, the Scottish Labour leader, said of the latest claims against Mr Joyce, who is suspended from the party but remains an MP: "If these reports are true, this sounds like a man who has abused a position of power and authority. I am disgusted. Regardless of other issues, I believe this makes him unfit to stand for Labour."

One senior party source said: "Joyce does not have a snowball's chance in hell of representing Labour again."

The Herald attempted to contact Mr Joyce but he did not return the calls.