Sunday, May 22, 2005


I have never much liked George Galloway. His garish style and the arrogance which seems to simmer constantly just beneath the surface have often made me think that if Elmer Gantry had been a politician he would have looked exactly like the gorgeous Mr Galloway.

But the man is clearly a genius with a brilliant grasp of the purposes and use of publicity. As a US Senate Committee, who besmirched his reputation over the Iraq oil for food programme and can put the fear of God into many mortals, found out this week.

His appearance before them not only raised his profile on the international stage but he told America’s power brokers exactly what a lot of people in Britain think and feel about them. A voice not reckoned in the Washington’s corridors of power spoke his mind straight.

Naturally, he didn’t answer their questions — politicians don’t do answering questions, just say what they want to say — but his careful choice of the words which flow so fluently and articulately from his lips skilfully turned the spotlight on the corruption and greed which stalk the American politico-business scene.

His comparison of the differences between his own and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfield’s meetings with Saddam Hussain was theatre at its most sublime.

People who doubt their ability to be who they want to be and achieve their aims are often advised to behave as if they are and have achieved them.

Even when he was virtually unknown outside his native Dundee, George Galloway has always behaved as if he already was who he wanted to be — someone to be reckoned. As anyone who has impugned his integrity has learned to their cost over the years.

And he’s a bonny fighter, whose answer to being tossed out of the Labour Party was to set up his own, the timely named Respect.

Today, after a stormy electoral campaign leading to a vote which decimated high profile Blair Babe Oona King’s 10,000 plus majority and had him romping home in Bethnal Green and Bow, he is Respect’s only MP. Chomping on his Churchillian cigar, he already travels at the speed of a global statesman on a lightning mission. After Washington on Tuesday, he was among his constituents in London on Wednesday and in Edinburgh on Thursday as part of the BBC’s Question Time panel.

Whatever his critics say, in a world of endless, meaningless sound bites where few, if any, people believe a word a politician says, gorgeous Mr Galloway has the appeal of an old-fashioned orator and the charisma to speak to and move hearts.

His instinctive, unerring ear for what constituents really want is worth more than the work of a thousand market researchers and probably as many focus groups.

His most difficult days may well be over now.

Unlike the vast majority of Britain’s over 600 odd Members of Parliament, who leave Westminster as unsung and unheard of as the day they entered it, he has arrived back with his profile higher than ever. And a freedom of speech it was difficult and dangerous for him to enjoy when he was a backbench Labour MP. Doubtless he will catch the Speaker’s eye and use it. Copyright Rebecca Hamilton 2005. All Rights Reserved