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Coffee House

The decline of George Galloway

21 February 2013

6:41 PM

21 February 2013

6:41 PM

The decay and decline of George Galloway was on full display in Oxford last night when he stormed out of a debate with a third-year PPE student from Brasenose College. The student’s crime was to be an Israeli, a discovery which led Galloway to declare: ‘I don’t debate with Israelis. I have been misled.’ He then got up to leave. ‘I don’t recognise Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis,’ Galloway said as he exited the room.

This is, of course, the old curmudgeon’s stock-in-trade. Galloway has made a career trading in the worst forms of sectarian and dog whistle politics. The Independent’s Owen Jones was busy calling on the Left to learn from Galloway at the weekend, arguing:

Gorgeous George is one of the most charismatic politicians of our time, but also one of the most divisive, and still manages to win over the audience. You don’t have to like him; but, if you want to change the world, you do have to learn from him.

Jones is wildly misguided. Galloway’s success derives from his abrasive and doctrinaire posturing; not from any supposed ‘charisma.’ Indeed, to look at Galloway over the last twenty-four months is to see a once half-competent orator (one need only consider his appearance before the U.S. Senate in 2005) decay and succumb with dogged inelegance to the wispy grasp of seniority.  Can anyone really point to a coherent or impressive Galloway performance over the last few years?

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During this time Galloway’s political life has been coloured by an accelerated descent into intemperance. Hosting a TV show on Hezbollah’s al-Mayadeen (‘the square’”) channel last September, Galloway adopted a faux-Arab accent of the most peculiar fashion while barracking a young Syrian who called him out for supporting Assad’s brutal regime.

All this leads, of course, to a not unreasonable examination of Galloway’s vociferous support for terrorist groups operating across the Middle East. After storming out of yesterday’s meeting Galloway claimed he would not engage with any Israelis because Israel is an ‘apartheid state’. Set aside the palpable falsity of that charge and consider the moral inversion here. Apartheid upsets Galloway to such an extent that he can’t abide debating anyone associated with it – although no similar concerns extend to those who deliberately kill civilians.

During a rally held in London during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel conflict, Galloway told his followers, ‘I am here to glorify the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah. I am here to glorify the leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.’ Later, when he led the Viva Palestina convoys to Gaza he triumphantly declared ‘I, now, here, on behalf of myself, my sister Yvonne Ridley, and the two Respect councillors – Muhammad Ishtiaq and Naim Khan – are giving three cars and 25,000 pounds in cash to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Here is the money. This is not charity. This is politics.’

When Galloway later pontificated on the meaning of rape in defence of Julian Assange he alienated even some of his most hardened supporters. Salma Yaqoob disowned him and left the Respect Party.

Galloway’s promiscuous embrace of tyrants, support for terrorist groups, and personal nastiness, perfectly captures all that is wrong with parts of the so-called ‘revolutionary Left’. It’s hard to know what lessons Owen Jones thinks the Left should draw from the political career or trajectory of George Galloway – besides it offering an abject example of righteous failure and hypocrisy.

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