What's in Paisley's Pants? Political ramblings about things that catch my attention... (rather than some smutty double entendre...)

Friday, January 13, 2006

In defence of George

The continual criticism of George Galloway is getting wearisome to be honest. The Independent devoted three pages to what a disgrace he is during the week; Richard & Judy have a daily segment on Celebrity Big Brother, which inevitably turns into a discussion of just how cruel Galloway is being to Jodie Marsh; and it all came to head for me watching Question Time last night, where Mark Oaten, Norman Tebbit, Mariella Frostrup, and Ed Balls (is there anyone in parliament any more bile-boilingly smug than this odious man?) and Matthew Parris were discussing what a joke Galloway is for being on the show, and how he is neglecting his duty to his constituents. It was time, I thought, to try and redress the balance.

George Galloway is a man of principle. He has a strong sense of morality, and this dictates his political positions. He backs these positions to the hilt with strong argument and rhetorical flair, something that is well documented. Obviously, someone with such strong opinions is going to cause a reaction opposite him, hence Galloway faces such strong opposition from such large portions of the media and political class. Almost invariably, Galloway comes out on top in such confrontation – he has undoubted skill, shown in the Senate last year, and shown again in the election, where he led his party to win a seat in its first election, an entirely unprecedented feat.

This, naturally, rubs his opponents the wrong way, and so they seize upon anything they can in an effort to discredit the man. The infamous meeting with Saddam Hussein, and the continuously quoted out of context 'Sir, I salute your strength, your courage, and your indefatigability', the continued (and entirely fabricated) controversy surrounding the Oil-for-Food programme, and any payments Galloway may have received from it. All of this provides opponents plenty of firepower with which to discredit him.

But why does Galloway generate so much controversy? Because he has no sense of PR, and rightly so. He values his principles over his public-image. He believes firmly, that the truth, and justice, will out, no matter how he is portrayed. And this leads to situations, such as the Hussein meeting in 1994, which would be unpalatable to any other western politician because of the negative PR it would generate. Galloway had no sense of this, but instead went to show his opposition to UN sanctions in place against Iraq, which were starving the poor of the country.

And so to Big Brother. Galloway saw this as a chance to push forward the anti-war argument to a bigger audience, but any such discussion has been edited out by channel 4, and Galloway is continuously bleeped out on the live coverage. It is effective censorship by channel 4, masquerading behind, I presume, this Ofcom set of guidelines. However, double standards are clearly present here, as debate about animal rights is allowed to be aired, whereas people agreeing with Galloway about the war on the first night are edited out. So Galloway is effectively silenced, and his reason for being in the house is removed.

And so it is galling to watch centre ground luminary Mark Oaten, and New Labour lackey Ed Balls mock Galloway, to an appreciative audience (many of whom confessed to be looking for a party to the right of the Conservatives to vote for – step forward the BNP), for making, as Matthew Parris called it ‘a PR blunder’. It highlights just how far style has become prioritised over substance in British politics. The contrast was highlighted by Mark Oaten, who just five minutes earlier had confessed that the three parties, now fighting over the centre ground, lacked any philosophy, any principles.

Galloway comes up against such strong opposition because he is an anomaly in modern politics – he prefers substance to style. It is a sad state of affairs when this is regarded as something to be criticised for.

(see also: Zoe Williams in The Guardian)