Tuesday, December 07, 2004

George Galloway's libel victory

Before Galloway became a celebrity south of the border, he was already well-known as a divider, as anyone in the Kelvin constituency Labour Party would tell you. Now he's having that effect elsewhere, although more purely to do with his position vis-a-vis Iraq, rather than his personalisimo political style.

Young Johann Hari of the Independent has got himself very worked up about Galloway, as you can see here. Bat, on the other hand, has a slightly different take on the man, to say the least. In his piece on Galloway's libel victory, Bat - who was writing for the Telegraph at the time - raises the question as to whether the "disgust at the conduct of this war – and in particular, at the warmongers' contemptuous attitude to legality, civil rights and truthfulness – has penetrated deeply into the heart of the legal establishment itself."

Marcus, at Harry's Place uses this occasion to cast doubt on whether Bat worked for the Torygraph at all - working on the assumption, presumably, that newspaper journalists are of a political homogeneity that reflects the editorial position of the newspaper.

At the same place you'll see that Oliver Kamm pitches in to the fray in the comments boxes with the suggestion that because Bat made a wee grammatical error in his post, this is reason to doubt that Bat has worked as a journalist at all (obviously never read the Guardian, then). For those of you who don't know who Oliver Kamm is, neither did I until comparatively recently. I'm still not sure but if I told you he appears to make a living from writing columns in the Times, defining words that no-one ever uses, you'd probably raise a skeptical eyebrow - but buy a copy on Saturday and that does seem to be precisely what he does. Anyway, the dispute goes on, with Lenin taking Harry and Kamm to task for their remarks. (Personally, I think Kamm's jealous because Bat's blog looks so much better than his).

To a number of us north of the border, the idea that Galloway can so neatly divide people into prowar and antiwar camps comes as a surprise, to say the least. I've had the dubious pleasure of having Galloway as my MP for most of my adult life and personally I can't be doing with him; I'd repeat some of the stories I heard from members and former members of the Kelvin constituency party but I don't have £150 000, so I better not.

My already low opinion of him sunk further on seeing him caught on camera, groveling before Saddam Hussein. His subsequent explanation of this - that he was saluting the Iraqi people, is unsatisfying and unconvincing, as is one of his other defences - that Rumsfeld too shook hands with the Iraqi dictator, which is entirely true, as shown in the picture below, but a strange line for someone to take if you're trying to convince people that what you did was reasonable behaviour.


Now, a number of the charges leveled against Galloway by Hari et al are, I think, rather unreasonable. It is, for example, apparently de rigour to cast up someone's support for the Soviet Union in the past and use it against them. Hari is too young to remember the expressions like "you can't make an omlette without breaking eggs", which some used to account for the Stalinist purges. Ignorant and reprehensible perhaps (I confess I may have used something like that when I was 17, will that be used against me sometime in the future?) - but not a million miles away from the justifications he himself uses for the (in my opinion) entirely unnecessary assault on Fallujah. There is also Galloway's alleged support for Musharraf. I've no idea if that's true or not and don't really care but given that this is also Bush and Blair's position, he might want to save some criticism for them too.

But it remains the case that it is unequivocally not just supporters of the war that'll be glad to see the back of Galloway as he heads south to take on Oona King in Bethnel Green. Now, Oona King - with her support for the invasion of Iraq - undoubtedly has her coat on a shaky nail in a constituency with a large number of voters who strongly opposed this war, but I still reckon it's likely that George will find out what he definitely would have found out had he stood for the newly-drawn constituency of Glasgow Central; that the only reason he became an MP in the first place was because he was wearing a red-rosette.

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