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The return of George Galloway to Labour – yes or no?

George Galloway at Stop The War protest in London, 24 Feb 2007. George Galloway. Scenes from Trafalgar Square, photo by David Martyn Hunt CC BY 2.0Ever since the election of Jeremy – and before – there has been whispering that the Gorgeous One, George Galloway will make a triumphant return to Labour. Ever since his expulsion from the party for “bringing it into disrepute” for suggesting that soldiers should disobey orders given by officers, it’s no secret that he has held out for a return. That is despite running against the party on a number of occasions, and – in 2005 and 2012 – winning two Parliamentary seats from it. There has always been an uneasy feeling among a section of the membership that a return was never ruled out.

The rumour mill ground out more nervous jitters last week with Ken Livingstone stating that Galloway should be allowed to return. Was he speaking from the heart or indulging some unlicensed kite-flying? No matter, at Monday’s PLP meeting, members of that august body stated in no uncertain terms that he shouldn’t be allowed back – a position apparently shared by the leader.

Long before the disgraceful campaign Galloway waged in Bradford to try and keep Naz Shah at bay, and his unconscionable comments in support of the rape charge-dodging Julian Assange, at best he was a Marmite figure. Galloway is undoubtedly a man of oratorical gifts and a charisma that charms and rubs people up the wrong way equally, and is capable of soaring triumphs and crashing lows. Witness his bravura performance in front of the US Senate, and how quickly that political capital was pissed away months later. Oh what fun was had watching the SWP twist and turn to defend his Celebrity Big Brother antics – remember, this was before their ugly falling out with everyone else in Respect.

Though why does Galloway inspire fear and loathing right across the left political spectrum, what is it about the man that brings forward a rare united front ranging from (some) Trots to Progress types? Part of it has to be rooted in his highly critical and uncompromising position on Israel, one that does not recognise its right to exist. Just as some Stalinists of old took the mildest criticism of the USSR as blackest blasphemy, so criticising the less savoury aspects of Israeli society – not least the occupation – is beyond the pale for some. But there are plenty of lefties like that (including the leader).

What truly inspires a visceral reaction against old Gorgeous is not so much the blindspot toward nominally anti-imperialist movements and dictators, but their whole-hearted embrace. Whether it be chumming up to figures in Ba’athist Iraq, his unapologetic appearances on Iran’s Press TV and Russia Today, his opportunistic courting of communalism to get elected, the soft-soaping of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Assad, and effectively putting pluses wherever the Western foreign policy establishment put a minus, for many the values Galloway professes to cherish at home are abandoned when it comes to matters abroad. It makes him look like an opportunist. A charlatan.

There are worse people than Galloway presently in the Labour Party, but worse for entirely different reasons. That said, letting George back into the party sends an entirely wrong message, that it’s okay to give enemies of labour movements everywhere a free pass if they’re episodically opposing interests set against our own, and – yes – that it’s okay to indulge sexist abuse if the cause, in George’s case a re-election campaign, is deemed just enough. Galloway is fine where he is. He seems happy doing his thing outside the Labour Party, and we’re doing just fine ticking over without him.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid

Image credit: George Galloway at Stop The War protest in London, 24 Feb 2007, photo by David Martyn Hunt CC BY 2.0

32 Comments

  1. the question of disruptives being inside a party is not one just for Labour, its general that no one gains from an egotist who has no concern for anything but what floats his own boat.

    or as Lord Salisbury said about his former chancellor and Winston Churchill’s dad Lord Randolph Churchill when asked if he wanted him back, “Why would I want a carbuncle put back when it had fallen off?”

    Trevor Fisher

  2. SimonB says:

    If Galloway is allowed back into Labour then it really will be the end of the party.

    1. John P Reid says:

      But will those who want him back accept it, when that happens or blame the electorate fir not voting for us,

  3. John Penney says:

    A good article. Surely the huge organisation destroyer and egotist, Galloway , isn’t going to sneak back into the Labour Party ? We on the Left have long berated all too many Blairite MP’s, and local Blairite Labour councillors too, for having no actual political beliefs in line with socialist or even Left social democratic principles. We accurately categorise these politicians as opportunist careerists, always looking for the personal main chance – to make a quick buck whilst in office – from numerous dodgy consultancies and opinion articles for the Tory press – followed after giving up their seats by directorships on the boards of dodgy companies whose interests they covertly advanced whilst in office.

    We rightly see these people as simply opportunists using the Labour party machine and much loved political tradition and “brand” to secure a very nice living for themselves – and sod the working people who vote Labour to keep them in their comfy lifestyle .

    George Galloway is seen by huge numbers in the Labour Movement, and far beyond, as the (pseudo) Left mirror image of this category of politician. it is well documented how he has secured throughout his extraordinary career , hundreds of thousands of £pounds each year by craftily playing the crude “Leftish anti Imperialist card” to a gullible Left and Muslim community , and via this and the ensuing ideological support for dictatorships supposedly representing a “Axis of Resistance to US Imperialism” across the Middle East and Russia securing lucrative TV spots on Russia Today and Iranian TV.

    His , undeniably glib, Leftish rhetoric notoriety has secured him endless paid opinion pieces in the capitalist press. Yet throughout his career the noxious fumes of lack of any actual principle and endless personal and financial scandal has pursued Galloway like a thick fug – from the early accusations of his use of War on Want funds to pay for prostitutes, to his dodgy association with the much saluted Baathist fascist dictator “indefatigable” Saddam Hussein.

    Galloway is seen by most people outside the Far Left Bubble and the less discerning on the Labour Left as simply an unrepentant opportunist rogue – a view enhanced recently with his astonishingly caveman male-centric views on rape.

    Galloway has always been “Teflon Man”, never being definitively sunk by each new scandal and notorious statement – aided by his perennial willingness to sue anyone daring to attempt to bring him to book for his comments. But the accusation of a noxious stink of opportunism and total lack of real principal nevertheless sticks to his person like a coat.

    This man must NEVER be allowed back into the Labour Party. He will stain the Labour Left as a whole with the wider public perception of his unprincipled chicanery.

    1. John P Reid says:

      He reminds me of hatton,even Ken livungstine had no time for hatton,one thing I will say in Galloways defense,when people accuse Israel of being the ‘jews’ who are doing it, he’s the first to say it’s the Israelis doing it, and that several Jewish people disagree with Israel.

  4. James Martin says:

    It’s almost like he suffers from political bi-polar, from the extreme from the high of demolishing the US Senate hearing to personal attacks against other candidates, from brilliantly building a huge Labour Party and Young Socialist membership in Glasgow in his youth to seeming being unable to work with anyone else today.

    Oddly it was when he threatened a brew-pub in Bradford during the last election (presumably because he thought it would play well with some Muslims, or perhaps just because his giant ego could do nothing else), that I realised he was totally beyond either hope or redemption.

    Anyway, apparently he is now an owner of a second-hand clothes shop so maybe he has found another hobby to keep him busy.

    1. Andy Newman says:

      Since when was it acceptable for socialists to use descriptions of mental distress as an insult?

  5. Chris says:

    He is a socialist knight in shining armour and he infuriates all the right people.

    1. John Penney says:

      Chris, mate, I have a guaranteed genuine treasure map I found in an old ruined mansion . Yours for £100.

  6. David Ellis says:

    He has the same politics as Milne. Putin and Assad. Even his anti-Zionism is questionable as he supports the tyrannous Palestinian Authority in the West Bank Bantustan and through it the bogus Zionist two-state peace lie.

    1. James Martin says:

      Yes, but in fairness if it was left to your socialist purity test David you could conduct a national meeting sat inside a Fiat 500 and still have a couple of spare seats left over.

      1. David Ellis says:

        Indeed, principles are a rare commodity in today’s degenerate left.

  7. gerry says:

    If the NEC accepts any membership application from this most discredited, disgusting and dysfunctional politician then it will be the Left/Corbyn who will be the losers. He openly – like Seumas Milne and Andrew Fisher his political soulmates – backs the shia fanatics running Iran, the mafia godfather, butcher and megathief Putin, but then also backs hard-line Sunni Islamic fundamentalists in Tower Hamlets and Bradford who voted for him en masse on two occasions. Ken backing Galloway shows just how toxic Livingstone has now become, and once upon a time ( the 1980s) I was a huge supporter of Livingstone….

    1. John P Reid says:

      Quite

  8. Chris says:

    Why is a supposedly left wing blog always deluged with fascists spouting bizarre lies about socialists such as Galloway and Milne?

    1. gerry says:

      Perhaps Chris its because the politics of Galloway, Milne and Fisher are so repulsive: pro Putin + pro Islamist + terrorist apologist + sectarianism + megalamonia + unhinged paranoia. Not a good look, Chris…

  9. Peter Rowlands says:

    No. Good response from John Penney.

  10. Jim Denham says:

    This vicious, sexist fanatically anti-Israeli lover of tyrants and strongmen the world over, has no place in the workers’ movement (or, indeed, civilised society). Keep the anti-“Zionist” scumbag out!

    1. David Ellis says:

      Says a Zionist.

  11. Sue says:

    I think there is room for George in the Labour Party. He scares the media and that is why he gets such a very bad press and then most believe it. He is an expert on the middle east. I think he has a lot to offer. Also of course he is very anti zionist and again this upsets Israel and a whole range of others but I feel he is absolutely right in this. In short he definitely rattles the cages of powerful people.

  12. Andy Newman says:

    Well Phil is entitled to his opinion, but I think that this article is ill judged,and has attracted the typical Pavlovian response.

    Phil’s arguments about “communalism” are wide of the mark.

    George is a talented and principled individual, whose judgement is often good, but sometimes poor.

    The difficulty is that with electoral politics, differences become exaggerated, and unwise things – once said – are hard to unsay. George as consistently sttod against Labour for 10 years,and that has a legacy.

    However,he made an enormous, contribution to the Scottish referendum campaign, where he worked well with Labour activists, and demonstrated that he can be an asset to the movement, reaching voters than the official No campaign could not reach.

    It could well be that feelings run too high for George to be readmitted, and should he seriously want to rejoin the party he would be well advised to support Sadiq Khan – which will be vital for Corbyn.

    However, the expulsion of George for bringing the party into disrepute could and should be rescinded. That can be done without readmitting him into membership.

    1. David Ellis says:

      Three things that put me off Galloway: His support for Putin and Assad in the name of anti-imperialism. His support for the Palestinian Authority in the name of anti-Zionism. Both of these end up as support for imperialism and Zionism. Finally his support for the repulsive Westminster Union and establishment against the referendum for independence in Scotland. Before Brown and Co waded in last minute to make bogus promises Galloway was for a while the official left face of British imperialism and the labour and trade union bureaucracy.

    2. Jon Lansman says:

      I agree with Andy that George Galloway was an asset in the Scottish Referendum campaign and he could be an asset to Labour in Scotland in the future. Why would we turn away someone who could help Labour in Scotland? There are some possible reasons. Continuing to stand against the Labour Party would be one perfectly good one – George cannot be readmitted if he does in fact stand against Sadiq Khan for which he has no possible political justification following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader and Sadiq as London’s mayoral candidate under essentially the same process at the same time. I personally do not think that the statement he made about Julian Assange given the time that has passed is sufficient. Others made similar remarks including Tony Benn – he later apologised as should George if he wishes to be readmitted as he should also to Naz Shah. But keeping someone out of the Labour Party should not be based on whether we agree with every statement he’s made – loads of members of the Labour Party have made many more daft statements than GG – but on his willingness to abide by the rules of the party. If he is willing to do so in the future and would be an asset to us in Scotland, there is a strong case for letting him back in – just as I felt there was for Derek Hatton who is a much more unsavoury character.

      1. David Ellis says:

        If Galloway gets back in Labour can wave goodbye to any possibility whatsoever of winning back Scotland. The Labour right have already gone to UKIP and most of the left to the SNP and he is attractive to neither.

  13. Um... says:

    Sorry for the tangent, but was Julian Assange ever charged with rape? I don’t think he was. As far as I know, he’s just wanted for questioning. Correction needed?

  14. Craighaggis says:

    Let him in, if only cos that will surely be the last straw for Friend of the Daily Wail Simon Danczuk. Then Labour can kick out Gorgeous, again.

  15. anosrep says:

    Throwing Galloway out was a stupid mistake, but letting him back in now would be a bigger one.

  16. Doug says:

    Jon Lansman, would people have been so keen to vote for Sadiq Khan if, before the ballot, he’d run to the right wing press to stick the boot into Corbyn? But, being a crafty careerist, he waited till he was elected. So now Labour are saddled with him as London Mayoral candidate. It’s a pity a genuine socialist isn’t standing. And I don’t mean the dreadful Galloway.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Do you really think Diane Abbott voters would have put Tessa second if they knew Khan disagreed with Corbyn, he was in Gordin Browns, team in 2007′ hardly something that Corbyn supported, in fact, I disagreed with a lot of a Browns stuff like 42 days

    2. John P Reid says:

      Surely we have to have someine who’s got a chance of winning,even Livinsgtone said stuff like Jean Charles demenezes was the 53rd victim of 7/7

  17. David Pavett says:

    Why are we even discussing this man?

    We have so many substantial and urgent political issues to resolve in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader that we need to spend all our available time discussing substantial political issues.

  18. david is right, but its a feature of the blog culture that contributors like to discuss personalities, rather than big issues. The Labour Party has never had a theoretical journal and once the CPGB collapsed there was no journal left which even pretended to discuss theoretical issues

    The British Left has always been untheoretical, but likes to have heroes and villains.

    trevor fisher

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