An account of a political desert and the dangers of political idolatry.
This is probably been a long time coming, I'll try to keep this short. Back in the day me and my mates were pretty big fans of Galloway's radio show. Hell when I fist started blogging I even created a tag just for posts that documented what he'd been up to. Given how I and Galloway have developed, I'm pleased the last time I've written anything remotely connected to him (till now anyway) was in 2011.
Since Galloway is now mostly well known for his pretty awful antics I think it prudent to just briefly list some of the reason's people like myself used to find him quite appealing.
- His promising career in the Labour party and its affiliates came to an end because he maintained public opposition to the Iraq war. His comments on the war got him expelled on charges of bringing the party into disrepute.
- In addition to a long career in parliament, George has been a very active charity organiser, being the General Secretary of War on Want which lead international aid efforts to Eritrea and Tigris during the civil war in Ethiopia.  And was a founder and promoter of the Viva Palestina convoys that took aid to Gaza in defiance of the Israeli blockade.
- Out of all the Left but not Labour political projects in the UK, and there are dozens, his vehicle RESPECT actually succeeded in getting an MP, himself naturally. Personally I was never really enamoured with RESPECT even at the height of my infatuation but this achievement was very appealing to many self described Socialists in the UK at the time.
To sum up, his appeal broadly speaking lay in his reputation for saying the right things and getting things done. A mix of practical accomplishments and principle if you will. It didn't hurt that he has skill as a talker, and he got mainstream attention by appearing on Big Brother. Though funnily enough I never liked Big Brother so I missed his appearance until after I knew who he was.
I think looking back it was a combination of being starved of political points of view beyond the mainstream, so Blair/Brown Labour, the Tories and the Libdems, and that at the time we had just started to turn 18 so had started drinking. But didn't have much money so instead of going to a pub we just went to each others houses sharing cheap lager. Galloway's three hour weekend radio show served quite well, it introduced us to a bit more political news and gossip, and since it was a radio show we had it as background noise and paid attention to it when things started to happen.
Also I think it helped that most of the people who bothered to keep calling or texting the show to argue with him were basically terrible people. Far right types calling him a Muslim sympathiser, neoliberals calling in to defend privatisations and boardroom bonuses, Scottish nationalists annoyed that he wasn't bothered about independence, Orange Order types etc. Its easier to shine when the most vocal critics are terrible reactionaries. I didn't encounter better criticism of the man and his views until years later.
But overtime the skeletons in the cupboard started to get out and Galloway seems to be intent on wasting all that goodwill he built up over the years on more gaffs and revelations. I parted ways with Galloway, my response was to ignore the fellow as his political platforms continued to implode and he became increasingly openly reactionary and marginal. I'd just go about my day and feel second hand embarrassment whenever a particularly egregious event put Galloway back on my radar.
So why am I doing this now? Well partly for some closure, but mainly because I'm hoping by publicly supporting Farage -the most successful far right populist at present- Galloway will finally burn his final bridges, that the small lefty undercurrent that he still taps into will give him up. If your familiar with Galloway, you'll no doubt be thinking of one of dozens of things he's said and done that should have done that already. But alas it takes a long time to build up a reputation and it often takes along time to demolish it.
Now of course even in the early days, there were warning signs. His anti-war credibility was undermined by just how grovelling a lot of his comments towards Saddam Hussein were, particularly the footage of his visit to Iraq
And while looking up that visit I also found this video where Galloway endorsed Iraq's claims on Kuwait.
I think its worth mentioning somethings that while not exactly hidden, do sometimes get overlooked. Like that Galloway doesn't appear to have ever rejected or condemned war wholesale, but only particular wars. During his career he's supported the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, bizarrely lamenting the loss of a "strong and stable government"  A government that relied on the Soviet army while fighting a civil war and persecuting and plotting against itself is strong and stable apparently. And I do remember him getting into an argument with some callers on his radio show over the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.
Now I was aware of some of this at the time, and I didn't really agree, but I was still learning and honestly the conversation would usually move on, so it tended to get lost or downplayed. But, well it started adding up, I'm not actually sure where there was a breaking point for me. I just remember there being a time where Galloway was someone whose opinions I would listen to with respect, to an embarrassing joke, to a pretty awful person in general to be avoided.
I do remember once he was very rude to a friend of mine, who called the show when the topic of the day was autism. But at the time we were all just baffled at how unprovoked his rudeness was, I'm pretty sure we laughed it off as an awkward moment. I suppose him working for Iran's Press TV didn't help. He'd spent years portraying himself as a principled outsider which kind of runs counter to working for the Islamic Republic of Iran's media arm. It definitely didn't help that in response to criticism of his new gig and the Iranian governments actions he made ridiculous comments downplaying human rights abuses, executions of homosexuals and lauding the Republic as a model democracy.
But I'll give some credit here, I believe his weak comments on Iran's political system helped me develop my ideas and criticism of representative government. If you just look for a few seconds Iran does look like a democracy not much different from say Western Europe. They have elections, several parties compete, they do have different policy platforms and who gets to be President does have some impact on what happens. But then you look a little longer and you notice how many political parties are underground or in exile, how the religious authorities have seats in government and a veto over the President and parliament via the Guardian Council, which is chosen by the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Khamenei), who has the power to declare war and peace, the council chooses heads of the judiciary and other state institutions, including the head of Press TV.
Basically the façade quickly falls apart. But after coming to that conclusion I looked at other so called democratic states, and what do you know? Found that all of them keep a lot of the power in un elected institutions, the only functional difference is that unlike Iran the one(s) whom have legal access to those institutions (well most of them) get that access through elections, sometimes extremely indirectly.
So in a way despite Galloway's collapse I think he has in an accidental fashion taught me some lessons worth learning. Granted many of them were things not to say or do, but an education is to be valued.
Goodbye Mr G.
Well it looks like we might not see the back of Gorgeous George after all
Looks like theirs still a political backwater for him to swim in.
1: I can remember hearing him recollect how he witnessed bombings by the Ethiopian air force, and another time when he talked about his time doing solidarity work in the anti-apartheid movement, which lead to at least on detainment and assault by an officer Mackenzie.
2: It might be worth mentioning though that it was RESPECT's electoral presence that introduced me to the name George Galloway. During European Elections in 2004 the RESPECT party competed, but due to a ballot error all the RESPECT lists, read as RESPECT George Galloway has received X number of votes. It sounded like a command, which is oddly fitting.
3: On the Pleasure of Hating Galloway by Chris Hitchens https://diamonddavewonfor.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/on-the-pleasure-of-hating-george-galloway/