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George Galloway



A whole bunch of words come to mind when one thinks of George Galloway.

Opinionated. Controversial. Unapologetic. Gutsy. Confrontational.  Maverick. Radical.

Unfortunately, they’re all too tame for the reality of this man.

Neither political correctness nor political expediency seem to mean very much to Galloway, one of the few politicians anywhere in the world who say it as they see it, outcomes be damned. As a result, he’s been insulted, lambasted, written off. He’s been accused, censured, slammed. He’s made very few friends but an epic-load of enemies. He’s been in the news constantly, almost never for the right reasons.

What’s remarkable is how little any of that seems to bother him.

Equally remarkable is the strength of his convictions in an age of fence-sitting. Having joined the Labour party at 13, he had already lost his first election by the age of 23, become secretary of the Dundee Labour Party by the age of 26 and, after a visit to Libya in 1977, announced a decision to “pledge the rest of his life to the Palestinian and Arab cause.”

He stood for and won a Glasgow parliamentary seat as a Labour candidate in 1987, 1997 and 2001 but that didn’t mean Gorgeous George, as he came to be nicknamed, treated his colleagues with any more deference than he did opponents. During the 2001 parliament alone he voted against the whip 27 times and eventually became one of the most vocal opponents of Labour leader and Prime Minister Tony Blair over his decision to join the American invasion in Iraq.

He had also, by the age of 30, become head of a major charity, War on Want, using his vocal political voice and connections to give the charity much larger reach than it previously had. But it was when he openly criticised Blair’s decision to join the Iraq invasion that he was expelled from Labour – and when he came entirely into his own.

He founded the Respect Party; won one election and lost another and in between, defended the Syrian regime; lashed out against the Afghanistan war; and took on, at some point, virtually every public figure in Britain, from Jemina Khan, who alleged he had converted to Islam in a secret ceremony to the late Christopher Hitchens, who famously called him a ‘thug’. George, expectedly, returned the compliment.

He also, in the next few years, went on to make two landmark appearances that dominate any discussion about his career.

The first, in 2005, was in front of the US Senate and counts as one of the most combative but celebrated pieces of political oratory in recent memory. Galloway took on a US Senate sub-committee that claimed he profited from Iraqi oil deals and that he had a close equation with Saddam Hussein. He’d already won a libel case against Britain’s Daily Telegraph to the tune of GBP 150,000 on similar allegations; the senate performance gave him a chance to win the grudging respect of even vociferous opponents.

And then George did it again – appearing on Celebrity Big Brother in a move he hoped would help publicise his political views. Instead, it singed into public memory the image of an MP down on all fours role-playing a cat, lapping at milk from an imaginary saucer offered by an ageing actress.

Which led the country to outrage, his opponents to gloat, and the media to write Galloway off again.

And then, earlier this year, he won a bye-election in Bradford with a thumping margin, defeating the Labour candidate, sweeping back into Parliament, and confounding all of Britain barring himself.

A role George Galloway especially relishes.

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