Galloway … martyr to the truth

George Galloway occasionally tells the tale of being “worked over” by Alistair Campbell during a “friendly” football match.

George Galloway believes time is running out for Blair
George Galloway believes time is running out for Blair

It is well known in parliamentary circles that the prime minister’s former communications director loathes the backbench MP.


So much so, Galloway recounts, that Campbell kicked him instead of the ball at every available opportunity during one encounter on the pitch.


A metaphor, perhaps, for the short shrift Galloway was given at a tribunal on Thursday which expelled him from Tony Blair’s Labour party.


But speculation is now rife that Galloway’s expulsion could be one of the biggest own goals in Labour’s recent history.

Campbell vented his feelings forGalloway on and off the pitch

Campbell vented his feelings for
Galloway on and off the pitch


It seems increasingly probable Galloway will now resign, sweep to victory in a by-election, and further embarrass a prime minister whose poll ratings are at their lowest ebb.


Divisive figure


You either love or hate George Galloway.


His supporters say he is a skilled orator and potent campaigner for the issues of his choice – Palestine, Iraq and Scottish home rule.


A hero in the Arab world, they argue he is being crucified for being one of the most effective critics of the Iraq war.


On the other hand, his detractors say he is an egomaniac who basks in the limelight.


They argue that his greatest asset – his eloquence – became his greatest flaw the minute Blair accused him of inciting violence against British troops.


Socialist politics


Born in 1954 in Dundee, George Galloway started his working life with a spell at the Michelin tyre plant in his home city.


But it wasn’t long before the amateur boxer developed a passion for socialist politics.


A dedicated Labour Party organiser in his 20s, he became a member of parliament for Glasgow Hillhead at the age of 32.


Galloway has built up quite a following during his 16 years in Glasgow, excelling at the unglamourous task of looking after his constituents. 


Critics sometimes referred to himas the MP for Baghdad Central

Critics sometimes referred to him
as the MP for Baghdad Central

But it is not his domestic brief that has piled the death threats on his desk.


Left-wing crusader


As befits a left-wing crusader, his living room is reportedly emblazoned with the images of his revolutionary heros.


There are portraits and pictures of Che Guevara, a bust of Lenin, snapshots of Fidel Castro and Yasir Arafat.


Galloway is reported to have developed his lifelong passion for the Middle East after a chance meeting with a young Palestinian.


The young man dropped into his office to plead the cause of his people, and Galloway was converted.


He subsequently visited a Palestinian refugee camp and twinned Dundee with the West Bank town of Nablus, flying the Palestinian flag over Dundee town hall.


Palestine connection


Ties with Palestine were later cemented when he married a Palestinian scientist.


There is even speculation that he may have converted to his wife’s religion, Islam. He certainly carries a copy of the Quran in his overcoat pocket.


When journalist Yvonne Ridley interviewed him at his Portugal home in April he did not deny the suggestion but said tantalisingly: “You will have to wait until I finish my book.”


However, his myriad causes made him countless enemies, especially in Fleet Street.


The ferociously litigious Galloway has survived a whole host of accusations.


Legal action


“In the mid-1980s there was only one MP that I can recollect making speeches about human rights in Iraq and this was George Galloway”

Tam Dalyell,
British MP

Most people would be daunted by the prospect of legal action but Galloway has successfully sued UK newspapers such as Daily Mirror and The Daily Telegraph several times.


One spectacular windfall came when The Telegraph accused him of getting drunk at a Scotch Whisky Association reception, knocking over an old lady in the street, and getting into a fight with a policeman.


It turned out the MP in question was not the teetotal Galloway but the more boisterous former minister George Foulkes.


But his enemies were given further ammunition when he met Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in 1994 with appeared to give a eulogy to the dictator’s “indefatigability”.


Galloway insisted he was talking of the Iraqi people, and the veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who was with him on the trip, sprang to his defence. It emerged later he was a victim of some ‘clever’ TV editing.


Saddam Hussein


“In the mid-1980s there was only one MP that I can recollect making speeches about human rights in Iraq and this was George Galloway,” said Dalyell.


Then in 1998, Galloway brought little Mariam Hamza to Glasgow for the leukaemia treatment which international sanctions denied her in Iraq.


Supporters said it was an act of charity, bolstered by a political desire to expose the damage done by sanctions.


On the other hand, critics dismissed it as a cynical public relations stunt.


Stunt or not, the MP had spent sufficient enough time with the child that she recognised his footsteps whenever he was nearby.


But it was in April 2003 that Galloway was plunged into the most chaotic incident of his political life when he was accused of accepting millions from Saddam Hussein.


Iraq conflict


The Daily Telegraph alleged the money was paid under the Mariam Hamza appeal after Iraqi intelligence documents were discovered in the offices of Baghdad’s former foreign ministry.


Galloway immediately denied the allegations and hinted the file was the work of “dark forces” out to discredit him. Unsurprisingly, he is currently sueing The Daily Telegraph.


Similar accusations in the Christian Science monitor resulted in an apology and an admission the newspaper had been a victim of receiving false documents defaming the MP.


Nevertheless, it is the current conflict in Iraq which has brought matters to a head for the Glasgow MP.


Many Labour members have condemned Tony Blair for his willingness to commit British troops alongside American forces against Saddam. But few have matched the vitriolic rhetoric of Galloway.


“Just as Mr Blair’s disasterous war was based on a lie, so they have expelled me based on a lie… All I did was oppose a liar from dragging my country into a war”

George Galloway

Blairites say he has simply gone too far – that he allegedly incited British troops to disobey orders and has placed himself with the electoral enemies of his own party.


After being expelled for his remarks on an Arabic TV station, a characteristically defiant Galloway rejected the Labour Party charges.




He told Aljazeera net: “Just as Mr Blair’s disasterous war was based on a lie, so they have expelled me based on a lie.


“I didn’t call on Arabs to attack the Britsh army, I called on British soldiers to disobey illegal orders which is an obligation on all armies since the Nuremburg trials.


“All I did was oppose a liar from dragging my country into a war.”


And Galloway believes Blair could be shooting himself in the foot, especially if the two-million strong Stop the War movement becomes a political party.


“The Stop the War movement is a big movement so he’s adding to his problems expelling me from the Labour Party.


“This does not put me out of British politics. Only the British people can do that through elections and that is something Tony Blair cannot rig.”


Embattled Blair


Many people believe Blair has made George Galloway into a political martyr by expelling him from the Labour Party.


Even senior Labour aides have argued he is less dangerous within the Labour fold than out of it.


As an independent, it is likely the popular Scot will sweep any official Labour candidate before him in a by-election.


And in doing so, he will have the ideal platform to excoriate his political enemy number one – the embattled British prime minister.

Source: Al Jazeera

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