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Dear George Galloway

April 20, 2012

Dear George,

Last night you blew it on Question Time. You allowed yourself to be drawn into an ugly squabble – deeply personal in tone – with David Aaronovitch.

George, you’ve just won an extraordinary victory in Bradford-West. Aaronovitch is the very definition of ‘yesterday’s man’. You don’t need to take this no-mark under your notice. His opinion was once sought and valued, briefly, when he was that most curious of things, an apparent Left-winger willing to act as a cheerleader for the ‘war on terror’. And we all now know how that worked out, bringing the judgement of people like Aaronovitch into serious question to boot.

I suspect that he was invited onto Question Time only because you were. The BBC were banking on the two of you providing ‘good TV’; hoping that fireworks would fly between you. The very seating arrangements were a clue – with you one end of the table and Aaronovitch the other.

As the BBC abandons all semblance of public service responsibilities it won’t care that such clashes generate more heat than light, just as long as it gives the impression of the cut and thrust of debate on what has become a tired TV format.

Fireworks? It was all a bit of a damp squib really. You see, the audience at home, and in the studio, know who you are: you’re that bloke off Celebrity Big Brother! But I doubt many people could identify David Aaronovitch if he was presented in a police-style line-up of journalists and commentators. They know little and couldn’t care less about him. Yet at one point you seemed determined to share his every biographical detail with us: his association with Blair, Murdoch and the Communist Party!

And yet the audience were unmoved, probably because they recall the old CPGB with a degree of affection – after all, for an ‘enemy within’ they compare quite well with the homegrown Al-Qaeda operatives that lurk in the public imagination today.

Your combative spirit is fine, George, when you’re addressing the issues but when you turn it to personal invective then you expose your own individual actions to scrutiny and you’re weak there.

You recovered the situation a little as the show went on, mainly because you spoke to the issues and ignored Aaronvitich, which you should have done from the start. But note-to-self, George: the mainstream media want to make you the story at every opportunity. Don’t open the door to that.

All the best,


9 Comments leave one →
  1. Jay permalink
    April 20, 2012 8:50 am

    Nice article, Rab; great writing and spot-on commentary. Galloway let himself down. He also didn’t answer the question about what he was going to do about the problems in Bradford, instead prefering to redirect attention to those who were to blame in the first place.

  2. April 20, 2012 8:55 am

    in spite of his lucidity,he’s of no use in politics….the essence isn’t there..he isn’t concerned with people….it’s all about him…he’s a showboater….and ever so sexy…many would laugh at that idea,but i know a good lay when i see one…and he’d be the dogs bollox.

  3. April 20, 2012 9:07 am

    Damn – I didn’t see it, but I would guess your observations are probably spot on, Rab. He’s quite good on Tawk Spawt at times, though he doesn’t have a face for radio.

  4. sackcloth and ashes permalink
    April 20, 2012 11:04 am

    ‘He also didn’t answer the question about what he was going to do about the problems in Bradford …’

    That might have something to do with the fact that he hasn’t got a clue what they are, or any interest in solving them.

    He was AWOL throughout his time at Bethnal Green and Bow, which is why Labour got the seat back in 2010. Unless he’s changed character completely, I can’t see him giving a flying f*** about his constituents.

  5. Rab permalink*
    April 20, 2012 11:34 am

    Welcome all,

    Robert, you can catch it on iPlayer, but to be honest, you didn’t miss much. It’ll just be an hour you’ll never get back.

    Jay and Sackcloth, Gorgeous needs to get a handle on those local issues. I’m not sure that he is in a position to do much about them though. I think one of the problems of being outside the mainstream party machine is that your influence is curbed. He’ll need to think strategically about how he approaches these issues as an ‘independent’.

    Mary, he’s a good lay and he knows it. And he wants everybody else to know it. He’s vain also, and that’s his problem. I don’t think you’re entirely fair to him when you say he doesn’t care about people. He cared enough to oppose the war/s and had he been heeded that would have spared a lot of lives.

    His opposition to the war on terror and his support of the Palestine cause have probably cost him a much more comfortable and lucrative political career. You say that it’s all about him. Alas, it is, but I’m not sure that he would always wish it thus (although on occasions, like last night, he doesn’t do enough to avoid his own individual record and personality becoming the issue).

    Anyone who willing puts themselves into the public eye – either through politics or entertainment or for whatever reason – needs to be equipped with considerable ego; they need a higher than average opinion of themselves. I hold my hands up here: I wouldn’t stand up in a lecture theatre unless I thought I had something to say and sufficient talents to deliver the message effectively.

    So, I don’t care that Galloway has an ego. I don’t care that he loves his own public eloquence. I don’t care (and actually quite enjoy) that he revels in the fact that he’s a guy from a humble background who has the verbal dexterity to tear metaphorical holes in the posh-kids in the room.

    I no longer expect my political representatives to be paragons of individual virtue – in effect, to be Jesus Christ (who, if he stands, I might vote for). But I do expect them to have some iota of principle.

    Look at the panel last night. Aaronovitch: a man who gave support to an imperial adventure that has ended disastrously and he doesn’t even have the good grace to hold his hands up and say, ‘Heh, I got it wrong’. Farron: in party that has served to prop up a Conservative led administration that has pushed through extreme policies for which it had absolutely no mandate for. Cooper: a common or garden career politician, who supported the war and whose response to Galloway’s victory in Bradford was not to examine Labour policy but to reflect upon its tactics. The epitome of style over substance. And then there is Warsi: unelected and thick (even by Tory standards). Seen, in that companying, George Galloway, I think, compares very well, which is perhaps a measure of just how woeful British mainstream politics is rather than a compliment to Galloway.

    There was no-one on that panel – and there are few in public life and politics – whose reputations could stand up to the kind of interrogation that Galloway is routinely subject to – their individual records and personalities would not bear up to such examination, few people’s would.

    The challenge facing Galloway is that he keeps the issues to the forefront and not to allow his opponents and the media to make him the story.

    I don’t like George Galloway but if he can, as he did on occasions last night, expose the mainstream political consensus built on cant and lies, then that’ll do for me, for now.

    • April 20, 2012 4:19 pm

      i can’t help thinking if someone really cared about people,they’d care hugely about how the public would perceive of them,just so they could bring about the changes they’d wish for …tony benn cared…he would never have dreamt of going on reality tv show for that very reason…he wouldn’t want it to hinder the change he’d hope to happen…someone like john hume cared,and he too would never enter any circus ring for the very same reasons….galloways stance in that american courtroom was safer than it looked…behind the momentarily disarming and confrontational style was a very safe and populist paranoia.he’s just a pop star…anyone who cares doesn’t thrive on polarization like he does…it really gives him a chubby….also i’m not sure about this ego thing..some people in public life are simply brilliant and rather selfless,even if by that default they end up with a lot of attention put upon them …. i look forward to more people in politics who go beyond lazily plugging into peoples sense of injustice and take the conversation into talk of new ground breaking ideas… most nearly everything else is just generics. ..anyone can huff and puff if they’ve got the stamina for it.

      • Rab permalink*
        April 20, 2012 5:05 pm

        Ah, Mary
        There you go, mentioning Tony Benn. Now that’s a politician I’ve tremendous admiration for. I used to write to him and he always replied. Imagine, he replied to a Belfast teenager who had no hope of ever voting for him. I still have the letters. I saw him speak in Belfast on two occasions, once accompanied by the folk singer, Roy Bailey. Fantastic. Here’s a clip of the two of them.

        But I can remember when Tony Benn looked like he might seriously challenge for the Labour leadership the tabloid press demonised him. It even brought his sanity into question at one stage, suggesting he was mentally ill. Same old tactic. Ignore the issues, concentrate on the personality.

        The thing is, the injustices that Galloway speaks to are not imagined. But there are too few politicians willing to address them – call a spade a spade. And while I’m not a fan of polarised debates, I do think, in politics, that sometimes you have to identify your opponents and beat them. There are few who ever surrendered power and pilfered wealth readily.

  6. Ian permalink
    April 20, 2012 2:04 pm

    Looool “cares about people”. He opposes wars and Israeli actions because he’s paid to, currently by the Iranian government, and in the case of his Palestinian convoys, by the Syrian government.

    You said he “lets” the mainstream media make it all about him… what foolishness. With Galloway it’s only EVER about Gorgeous George. And as such he managed to make Aaronovitch look good… He’s a liability.

  7. Rab permalink*
    April 20, 2012 3:42 pm

    Welcome Ian,
    You’re talking bollocks. There’s more money in war than opposing it.

    This is interesting from The New Internationalist.

    As the article says, governments rountinely spend more on arms than education and health. It’s worth quoting a bit at length because I don’t think anything it says is controversial.

    ‘Despite the fact that arms manufacturing in most Western nations ultimately represents vast fortunes of public funds flowing into private coffers for products that deal in injury or death, the industry is usually represented as a source of national pride. Military top brass and ministries of defence vie to feed it (and ultimately feed off it when they go through the revolving door on to industry careers). The corridors of power are infiltrated by lobbyists for the arms industry. So pervasive is its influence that when it comes to matters of spending on arms, the tail often wags the dog, with the requirements of the industry being put before effective strategy.’

    Again, I stress, I’m not defending Galloway’s ‘honour’. But ‘MAN IS ACCUSED OF GETTING PAID TO OPPOSE WAR IN WHICH TENS OF THOUSANDS OF INNOCENT CIVILIANS DIED’… Well, it’s not much of headline. My point is this: what makes him worse than many of our mainstream representatives?

    You’re right, he did make Aaronovitch look good. I say as much in the post. But it simply isn’t true to say that it’s only every about George Galloway. Whatever size his ego (and it could probably orbit a small planet) he’s not always wrong. Do you not think it is reasonable to say that his inclusion in political debate, sometimes (and I stress, sometimes) offers perspectives on key issues that mainstream politicians would sooner we ignored? And actually, sometimes, that’s a welcome relief from the enchanted consensus that stifles any meaningful exchange of ideas in our politics? I wish with all my heart and soul that the arguments he puts forward were being advanced in public by someone else: someone un-besmirched by ambition and pride and self-interest. But there are precious few of them around.

    So, I reiterate my final point again: I don’t like George Galloway but he’ll have to do for now.

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