George Galloway

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George Galloway
MP
George Galloway 2007-02-24.jpg
Galloway at a Stop the War protest in London, 24 February 2007
Member of Parliament
for Bradford West
Incumbent
Assumed office
29 March 2012
Preceded by Marsha Singh
Majority 10,140 (30.9%)
Member of Parliament
for Bethnal Green and Bow
In office
5 May 2005 – 6 May 2010
Preceded by Oona King
Succeeded by Rushanara Ali
Majority 823 (1.9%)
Member of Parliament
for Glasgow Kelvin
In office
1 May 1997 – 5 May 2005
Preceded by Constituency created
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Majority 7,260 (27.1%)
Member of Parliament
for Glasgow Hillhead
In office
11 June 1987 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by Roy Jenkins
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Majority 4,826 (12.3%)
Personal details
Born (1954-08-16) 16 August 1954 (age 60)
Dundee, Scotland
Nationality British
Political party Respect (2004–present)
Labour (1967–2003)
Residence London
Website www.georgegalloway.com

George Galloway (born 16 August 1954) is a British politician, broadcaster, and writer. Since late March 2012 he has been the Respect Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Bradford West.

After first coming to prominence in Scottish politics, he became General Secretary of the London based charity War on Want in 1983, remaining in the post until 1987. Galloway was first elected in that year's general election as a Labour Party MP representing Glasgow Hillhead. From 1997, Galloway represented its successor constituency Glasgow Kelvin, and remained as the MP for the seat until 2005. In October 2003, Galloway was expelled from Labour having been found guilty of four charges of bringing the party into disrepute.[1]

He became a leading member of the Respect Party in 2004 (eventually its leader),[2] and was elected as the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow at the general election the following year.[3] After unsuccessfully contesting the seat of Poplar and Limehouse in 2010,[4] he returned as a Westminster MP following the Bradford West by-election in March 2012.

In the late 1980s, according to journalist David Aaronovitch, Hansard records him delivering "a ferocious assault" on the Ba'ath Party, and Galloway opposed Saddam Hussein's administration until the United States-led Gulf War in 1991.[5] Galloway visited Iraq in 1994 and delivered a speech to Saddam Hussein which ended in English with the statement "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability."[6] He has maintained that he was addressing the Iraqi people in the speech.[7] Galloway testified to the United States Senate in 2005 over alleged illicit payments from the United Nations' Oil for Food Programme.[8]

Galloway is a campaigner who supports the Palestinian side of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, taking an anti-Zionist stance, and was involved in the Viva Palestina aid convoys. Despite this commitment, Galloway's abrupt departure in 2013 from a debate at Oxford University, after he discovered the other speaker had joint British-Israeli citizenship, led to him being criticised by other advocates of the Palestinian cause.[9]

Galloway has been described as "renowned for his colourful rhetoric and combative debating style."[10] The Spectator awarded him Debater of the Year in 2001.[11][12]

Contents

Early life and career

Galloway was born on 16 August 1954 in Dundee Maternity Hospital; the eldest of three, he has a younger brother and sister, Graham and Colette. His teetotal parents were George Galloway, a Scottish trade unionist, and Sheila (née Reilly) of Irish descent.[13][14][15] Initially raised in the Lochee area of Dundee, he has described himself as "born in an attic in a slum tenement in the Irish quarter of Dundee, which is known as Tipperary."[16] His father began as an electrician, before becoming an electro-mechanical engineer at NCR. After being laid off, he retrained as a teacher.[17] His mother was a cleaner, and then a factory worker. According to Galloway, his father was patriotic, while his mother had Irish republican sympathies, and was critic of British pretensions in the world. Galloway took his mother's side in arguments.[17] David Morley, Galloway's biographer, however, writes that people who knew both father and son have said that they shared similar Marxist opinions, common in the local Labour movement of the time.[18]

He grew up in Charleston and attended Charleston Primary and then Harris Academy, a non-denominational school. During his school years, he used to play football for the school team. As an amateur footballer, he played for West End United U12s, Lochee Boys Club U16s and St Columbus U18s.[19]

Labour Party organiser

Galloway joined the Labour Party Young Socialists at 13 years old and was still a teenager when he became secretary of the Dundee Labour Party.[16] He recalled in 2007: "As a teenager, I fell in love with the example of Che Guevara," the Argentinian revolutionary.[20]

Galloway became Vice-Chairman of the Labour Party in the City of Dundee and a member of the Scottish Executive Committee in 1975. On 5 May 1977, he contested his first election campaign in the Scottish district elections, but failed to hold the safe Labour seat of Gillburn in Dundee. He was defeated by the Independent candidate Bunty Turley, who stood on a 'moral ticket.' A local controversy at the time was Galloway's allocation, with his girlfriend Elaine Fyffe (later his first wife), of a three-bedroom council flat (soon rejected by the couple) which may have influenced the result.[21] Galloway became the secretary organiser of Dundee Labour Party in 1977 and was the youngest ever chairman (a post held for a year) of the Scottish Labour Party in March 1981 at 26 years old.[22]

In his mid-20s after a trip to Beirut in Lebanon during 1977, he became a passionate supporter of Palestine stating during his libel case against the Daily Telegraph in 2004 that "barely a week after my return I made a pledge, in the Tavern Bar in Dundee's Hawkhill District, to devote the rest of my life to the Palestinian and Arab cause."[23] He supported Dundee City Council when it flew the Palestinian flag inside the City Chambers and was involved in the twinning of Dundee with Nablus in 1980,[24] although he did not take part in the visit of Lord Provost Gowans, Ernie Ross MP and three City Councillors to Nablus and Kuwait in April 1981.[25]

In 1981, Galloway wrote an article for Scottish Marxist supporting Communist Party affiliation with the Labour Party, apparently suggesting it as a strategy against the infiltration of the party by the Trotskyist Militant tendency.[26] In response, Denis Healey, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, tried and failed to remove Galloway from the list of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates. Healey lost his motion by 13 votes to 5.[27] Galloway once quipped that, to overcome a £1.5 million deficit which had arisen in Dundee's city budget, he, Ernie Ross and leading Councillors should be placed in the stocks in the city square: "we would allow people to throw buckets of water over us at 20p a time."[28]

Standing as a candidate for a place on the Labour Party National Executive Committee in 1986; in a large field of 18 candidates, Galloway finished second from the bottom.[29]

War on Want

From November 1983 to 1987, Galloway was the General Secretary of War on Want, a British charity campaigning against poverty worldwide. In this post he travelled widely, and wrote eye-witness accounts of the famine in Eritrea in 1985 which were published in The Sunday Times and The Spectator.[30]

The Daily Mirror accused him of living luxuriously at the charity's expense.[31] An independent auditor cleared him of misuse of funds,[32] though he did repay £1,720 in contested expenses.[32]

More than two years after Galloway stepped down to serve as a Labour MP, the UK Charity Commission investigated War on Want. It found accounting irregularities from 1985 to 1989, but little evidence that money was used for non-charitable purposes. The commission said responsibility lay largely with auditors, and did not single out individuals for blame.[32]

Political career (1987–2005)

Member of Parliament for a Glasgow seat

In the 1987 election, Galloway was elected the MP for Glasgow Hillhead in a Labour Party gain from the Social Democratic Party defeating Roy Jenkins with a majority of 3,251. Although known for his left-wing views, Galloway was never a member of the Campaign Group, Labour's leftist groupings of MPs.[17] In 2002, Galloway stated "I am on the anti-imperialist left... If you are asking did I support the Soviet Union, yes I did. Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life."[7] According to Tam Dalyell in 2003, in this early period of Galloway's parliamentary career, the new member "was [the] only one MP that I can recollect making speeches about human rights in Iraq."[33]

At a press gathering for War on Want in September 1987, when Galloway had stood down as General Secretary to the organization, a journalist asked him about his personal arrangements during the previous year's War on Want conference on the Greek island of Mykonos.[21] The new MP replied: "I travelled and spent lots of time with people in Greece, many of whom were women, some of whom were known carnally to me. I actually had sexual intercourse with some of the people in Greece."[34] By then separated from his first wife,[35] the statement put Galloway on the front pages of the tabloid press and in February 1988 the Executive Committee of his Constituency Labour Party passed a vote of no confidence in him by 15 to 8.[34][36] The constituency's general management committee voted 54 to 44 in favour of the motion a fortnight later on 22 Debruary, although only 3 of the 25 members in the trade union section supported it.[36]

He gained re-selection when challenged by Trish Godman (wife of fellow MP Norman Godman) in June 1989, but failed to get a majority of the electoral college on the first ballot. This was the worst result for any sitting Labour MP who was reselected, but in the final vote, Galloway gained 62% in total. In his acceptance speech, Galloway assured his party there would be a "summer of peace and reconciliation," but this did not happen. Many members of the party who had supported Goodman reportedly refused to work for Galloway in the next election, including Johann Lamont, many years later leader of the Scottish Labour Party.[37] The following August, 13 of the 26 members of the Constituency Party's Executive Committee resigned.[38] Lamont was one of those who resigned. According to her, Galloway "has done nothing to build bridges with the members of the executive [committee of the constituency labour party] who opposed his selection." She told a journalist from The Guardian at the time: "The quarrel we have is all about accountability, and democracy ... working in harmony, rather than any personal matters."[39]

In 1990, a classified advertisement appeared in the Labour-Left weekly Tribune newspaper: "Lost. One MP, balding. Answers to name George but also known as Gorgeous. Last heard of in Romania...", and claimed that the MP had not been present at a meeting of his constituency party for a year.[40] One of the telephone numbers given was for the Groucho Club in London, from which Galloway had reportedly been denied membership. Galloway took legal action against Tribune and pointed out that he had been to five constituency meetings in the previous year.[40] He eventually settled for an out-of-court payment from the newspaper.

The leadership election of the Labour Party in 1992 saw Galloway voting for the eventual winners, John Smith for Leader and Margaret Beckett as Deputy Leader. In 1994, after Smith's death, Galloway declined to cast a vote in the leadership election (one of only three MPs to do so). In a debate with the Leader of the Scottish National Party Alex Salmond, Galloway responded to one of Salmond's jibes against the Labour Party by declaring "I don't give a fuck what Tony Blair thinks."[38]

Although facing a challenge for the Labour nomination for the seat of Glasgow Kelvin in 1997, Galloway defeated Shiona Waldron. He was unchallenged for the nomination in 2001.

In the 1997 and 2001 elections Galloway was the Labour candidate for the seat of Glasgow Kelvin, winning with majorities of over 16,000 and 12,000 respectively. During the 2001 Parliament, he voted against the Whip 27 times. During the 2001–02 session he was the 9th most rebellious Labour MP.

Iraq in the 1990s and the Mariam Appeal

Galloway opposed the 1991 Gulf War and was critical of the effect that the subsequent sanctions had on the people of Iraq. He visited Iraq twice and met senior government officials.

In 1994, Galloway faced some of his strongest criticism on his return from a Middle-Eastern visit during which he had met Saddam Hussein. At the meeting, he reported the support given to Saddam by the people of the Gaza Strip which he had just visited: "I can honestly tell you that there was not a single person to whom I told I was coming to Iraq and hoping to meet with yourself who did not wish me to convey their heartfelt, fraternal greetings and support."[41] He ended his speech in English with the statement "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability."[6] The issue of the precise context of his statement to Saddam Hussein continues to be raised. Galloway has asserted that he was saluting the Iraqi people rather than Saddam Hussein.[7] Galloway's speech was translated for Hussein. Anasal-Tikriti, a friend of Galloway's and a Respect candidate, spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain said: "I understand Arabic and it [Galloway's salutation] was taken completely out of context. When he said "you" he meant the Iraqi people, he was saluting their indefatigability, their resolve against sanctions. Even the interpreter got it right and, in Arabic, says salutes the stand of the Iraqi people'."[21] For his contact with Saddam, Galloway was dubbed the "MP for Baghdad North."[42] Galloway argued, when he spoke before the U.S. senate on 17 May 2005, that he had "met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns."[43] He continued "I met him to try to bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war."[44]

In 1998 Galloway founded the Mariam Appeal which was intended, according to its website's welcome page in 1999, "to campaign against sanctions on Iraq which are having disastrous effects on the ordinary people of Iraq."[45] The campaign was named after Mariam Hamza, a child flown by the fund from Iraq to Britain to receive treatment for leukaemia. The intention was to raise awareness of the suffering and death of hundreds of thousands of other Iraqi children due to poor health conditions and lack of suitable medicines and facilities, and to campaign for the lifting of the Iraq sanctions that many maintained were responsible for that situation. In 1999, Galloway was criticised for spending Christmas in Iraq with Tariq Aziz, who was Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister. In the 17 May 2005, hearing of the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Galloway stated that he had had many meetings with Aziz, and characterised their relationship as friendly.[46]

The fund received scrutiny during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, after a complaint that Galloway used some donated money to pay for his travel expenses.[47] Galloway said that the expenses were incurred in his capacity as the Appeal's chairman. Although the Mariam Appeal was never a registered charity and never intended to be such, it was investigated by the Charity Commission. The report of this year-long inquiry, published in June 2004,[48] found that the Mariam Appeal was doing charitable work (and so ought to have registered with them), but did not substantiate allegations that any funds had been misused.

A further Charity Commission Report published on 7 June 2007 found that the Appeal had received funds from Fawaz Zureikat that originated from the Oil For Food programme, and concluded that: "Although Mr Galloway, Mr Halford and Mr Al-Mukhtar have confirmed that they were unaware of the source of Mr Zureikat’s donations, the Commission has concluded that the charity trustees should have made further enquiries when accepting such large single and cumulative donations to satisfy themselves as to their origin and legitimacy. The Commission's conclusion is that the charity trustees did not properly discharge their duty of care as trustees to the Appeal in respect of these donations." They added: "The Commission is also concerned, having considered the totality of the evidence before it, that Mr Galloway may also have known of the connection between the Appeal and the Programme."[49] Galloway responded: "I've always disputed the Commission's retrospective view that a campaign to win a change in national and international policy—a political campaign—was, in fact, a charity."[50]

Expulsion from the Labour Party

Galloway became the Vice-President of the Stop the War Coalition in 2001. Actively involved, he often delivered speeches from StWC platforms at anti-war demonstrations. From this position, Galloway made many aggressive and controversial statements in opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

He said in a 28 March 2003 interview with Abu Dhabi TV that Tony Blair and George W. Bush had "lied to the British Air Force and Navy, when they said the battle of Iraq would be very quick and easy. They attacked Iraq like wolves. ..." and added, "... the best thing British troops can do is to refuse to obey illegal orders."[51] This incitement was later among the formal reasons for his expulsion from the Labour Party.[52] He called the Labour Government "Tony Blair's lie machine."[53]

On 18 April, The Sun published an interview with Tony Blair who said: "His comments were disgraceful and wrong. The National Executive will deal with it."[54] At this time, Labour MP Tam Dalyell commented in Galloway's defence: "I think he is a deeply serious, committed politician and a man of great sincerity about the causes he takes up."[33] On 6 May 2003, David Triesman, then General Secretary of the Labour Party, suspended Galloway from holding office in the party,[55] pending a hearing on charges that he had violated the party's constitution by "bringing the Labour Party into disrepute through behaviour that is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Party."[56] Speaking on BBC Radio, Galloway said he stood by every word of the Abu Dhabi interview.[56]

The National Constitutional Committee held a hearing on 22 October 2003, to consider the charges, taking evidence from Galloway himself, from other party witnesses, viewing media interviews, and hearing character testimony from former Cabinet Minister Tony Benn,[57] among others. The following day, the committee decided in favour of four of the five charges accusing Galloway of "bringing the party into disrepute," and expelled Galloway from the Labour Party.[1] A claim that, in a speech, he had congratulated a successful anti-war candidate from the Socialist Alliance in Preston was rejected.[1] According to Ian McCartney, then Labour Party chairman, Galloway was the only Labour MP who "incited foreign forces to rise up against British troops" in the Iraq War.[58] Galloway said after the NCC had decided on his expulsion: "This was a politically motivated kangaroo court whose verdict had been written in advance in the best tradition of political show trials."[52]

Iraq and Saddam Hussein

In a House of Commons debate on 6 March 2002, Foreign Office Minister Ben Bradshaw said of Galloway that he was "not just an apologist, but a mouthpiece, for the Iraqi regime over many years."[59] Galloway called the Minister a liar and refused to withdraw: "[Bradshaw's] imputation that I am a mouthpiece for a dictator is a clear imputation of dishonour" he said, and the sitting was suspended due to the dispute.[60] Bradshaw later withdrew his allegation, and Galloway apologised for using unparliamentary language.[61] In August 2002, Galloway returned to Iraq and met Saddam Hussein for a second time. According to Galloway, the intention of the trip was to persuade Saddam to re-admit Hans Blix, and the United Nations weapons inspectors into the country.[62]

Galloway signing an asylum seekers petition, sitting on the edge of the StWC stage at the 2005 Make Poverty History rally.

In 2006 a video surfaced showing Galloway enthusiastically greeting Uday Hussein, Saddam's eldest son, with the title of "Excellency" at Uday's palace in 1999.[63] "The two men also made unflattering comments about the United States and joked about losing weight, going bald and how difficult it is to give up smoking cigars," according to The Scotsman.[64]

Giving evidence in his libel case against the Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2004, Galloway testified that he regarded Saddam as a "bestial dictator" and would have welcomed his removal from power, but not by means of a military attack on Iraq. Galloway also pointed that he was a prominent critic of Saddam Hussein's government in the 1980s, as well as of the role of Margaret Thatcher's government in supporting arms sales to Iraq during the Iran/Iraq war.

Iraq after Saddam Hussein (2003–06)

At the national conference of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, on 30 June 2003, Galloway apologised for describing George W. Bush as a "wolf," saying that to do so defamed wolves: "No wolf would commit the sort of crimes against humanity that George Bush committed against the people of Iraq."

On 20 November 2004, George Galloway gave an interview on Abu Dhabi TV in which he said:

On 20 June 2005, he appeared on Al Jazeera English to lambast these two leaders and others:

Galloway defended Iraqi insurgents targeting western forces as "martyrs" in August 2005 appearances on middle eastern TV stations,[66][67] but then denied he had done so when challenged by the BBC.[68] During this period, he continued to praise Tariq Aziz, calling him "a political prisoner" and "an eminent diplomatic and intellectual person." In April 2005, Galloway advocated his release during that year's general election campaign.[69]

Oil for Food

Daily Telegraph libel case

On 22 April 2003, the Daily Telegraph published news articles and comment describing documents found by its reporter David Blair in the ruins of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. The documents purported to be records of meetings between Galloway and Iraqi intelligence agents, and they stated that he had received £375,000 per year from the proceeds of the Oil-for-Food Programme. Galloway completely denied the story, and pointed to the nature of the discovery within an unguarded, bombed-out building as being questionable. He instigated legal action against the newspaper, which was heard in the High Court on 14 November 2004.[70]

On 2 December, Justice David Eady ruled that the story had been "seriously defamatory," and that the Telegraph was "obliged to compensate Mr Galloway ... and to make an award for the purposes of restoring his reputation." Galloway was awarded damages of £150,000 plus, after a failed appeal in 2006,[71] legal costs of about £2 million.[72]

The libel case was regarded by both sides as an important test of the Reynolds qualified-privilege defence. The Daily Telegraph did not attempt to claim justification (where the defendant seeks to prove the truth of the defamatory reports): "It has never been the Telegraph's case to suggest that the allegations contained in these documents are true."[73] Instead, the paper sought to argue that it acted responsibly because the allegations it reported were of sufficient public interest to outweigh the damage caused to Galloway's reputation.[74] The trial judge did not accept this defence, saying that suggestions such as Galloway being guilty of "treason," "in Saddam's pay," and being "Saddam's little helper" caused him to conclude "the newspaper was not neutral but both embraced the allegations with relish and fervour and went on to embellish them."[72] Additionally Galloway had not been given a fair or reasonable opportunity to make inquiries or meaningful comment upon the documents before they were published.[70]

The issue of whether or not the documents were genuine was likewise not at issue at the trial. Oliver Thorne, a forensic expert who had been earlier hired by Galloway's lawyers, later stated "In my opinion the evidence found fully supports that the vast majority of the submitted documents are authentic."[75] He added "It should be noted that I am unable to comment on the veracity of the information within the disputed Telegraph documents, whether or not they are authentic."

Other libels and claims

The Christian Science Monitor also published a story on 25 April 2003, stating that they had documentary evidence that he had received "more than ten million dollars" from the Iraqi government. However, on 20 June 2003, the Monitor reported[76] that their own investigation had concluded that the documents were sophisticated forgeries, and apologised. Galloway rejected the newspaper's apology, asserted that the affair was a conspiracy against him, and continued a libel claim against the paper.

The Christian Science Monitor settled the claim, paying him an undisclosed sum in damages, on 19 March 2004.[77][78] It emerged that these documents had first been offered to the Daily Telegraph, but they had rejected them. The documents' origin remains obscure.

In January 2004, a further set of allegations were made in Al-Mada,[79] a newspaper in Iraq. The newspaper claimed to have found documents in the Iraqi national oil corporation showing that Galloway received (through an intermediary) some of the profits arising from the sale of 19.5 million barrels (3,100,000 m³) of oil. Galloway acknowledged that money had been paid into the Mariam Appeal by Iraqi businessmen who had profited from the UN-run programme, but denied benefiting personally, and maintained that, in any case, there was nothing illicit about this:

US Senate

Allegations

In May 2005, a US Senate committee report[80] accused Galloway along with former French minister Charles Pasqua of receiving the right to buy oil under the UN's oil-for-food scheme. The report was issued by the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Norm Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota. The report cited further documents from the Iraqi oil ministry and interviews with Iraqi officials.

Coleman's committee said that Pasqua had received allocations worth 11 million barrels (1,700,000 m3) from 1999 to 2000, and Galloway received allocations worth 20 million barrels (3,200,000 m3) from 2000 to 2003. The allegations against Pasqua and Galloway, both outspoken opponents of U.N. sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s, have been made before, including in an October report by US arms inspector Charles Duelfer as well as in the various purported documents described earlier in this section. But Coleman's report provided several new details. It also included information from interrogations of former high-ranking officials in US custody, including former Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and former Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan. Among the claims is that there is new evidence to suggest that the Mariam Appeal, a children's leukaemia charity founded by Galloway, was in fact used to conceal oil payments. The report cites Ramadan as saying under interrogation that Galloway was allocated oil "because of his opinions about Iraq."

Galloway combatively countered the charges by accusing Coleman and other pro-war politicians of covering up the "theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth... on your watch" that had occurred under a post-invasion Coalition Provisional Authority, committed by "Halliburton and other American corporations... with the connivance of your own government."[81][82]

Senate hearing of 17 May 2005

On 17 May 2005, the committee held a hearing concerning specific allegations (of which Galloway was one part) relating to improprieties surrounding the Oil-for-Food programme. Attending Galloway's oral testimony and enquiring of him were two of the thirteen committee members: the chair (Coleman) and the ranking Democrat (Carl Levin).[83]

On arriving in the US, he told Reuters, "I have no expectation of justice from a group of Christian fundamentalist and Zionist activists."[84] Galloway described Coleman as a "pro-war, neocon hawk and the lickspittle of George W. Bush," who, he said, sought vengeance against anyone who did not support the war in Iraq.[85]

In his testimony, Galloway made the following statements in response to the allegations against him:[86]

He questioned the reliability of evidence given by former Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan, stating that the circumstances of his captivity by American forces call into question the authenticity of the remarks. Galloway also pointed out an error in the report, where documents by The Daily Telegraph were said to have covered an earlier period from those held by the Senate. In fact the report's documents referred to the same period as those used by The Daily Telegraph, though Galloway pointed out that the presumed forgeries pertaining to the Christian Science Monitor report did refer to an earlier period.

The US media, in reporting his appearance, emphasised his blunt remarks on the war. The British media gave more mixed coverage. The TV presenter Anne Robinson said Galloway "quite frankly put the pride back in British politics" when introducing him for a prime time talk show.[87][88] An article in The Times on 18 May described him as having "the gift of the Glasgow gab, a love of the stage and an inexhaustible fund of self-belief."[89]

A report by the then-majority Republican Party staff of the United States Senate Committee on Investigations published in October 2005 asserted that Galloway had given false or misleading[90] testimony under oath when appearing before them. The report exhibits bank statements it claims show that £85,000 of proceeds from the Oil-for-Food Programme had been paid to Galloway's then-wife Amineh Abu-Zayyad. Galloway reiterated his denial of the charges and challenged the US Senate committee to charge him with perjury. He claimed Coleman's motive was revenge over the embarrassment of his appearance before the committee in May.[91][92][93]

Parliamentary career (2005–10)

2005 election

Shortly after his expulsion from the Labour Party Galloway wrote in The Guardian at the end of October 2003 that he would soon be part of a coalition consisting of the "red, green, anti-war, Muslim and other social constituencies radicalised by the war."[94] In January 2004, it emerged that Galloway would be working with the Socialist Workers Party in England and Wales, and others, under the name Respect – The Unity Coalition, generally referred to simply as Respect.[95] During a 9 March 2005 interview at the University of Dhaka (Bangladesh) campus Galloway called for a global alliance between Muslims and progressives because, according to him, they "have the same enemies."[96] Muslim groups have been involved in Respect. Respect split in the autumn of 2007, with the SWP and Galloway's wing of Respect blaming each other for what he described as a "car crash on the left."[97]

Galloway had announced that he would not force a by-election following his expulsion from the Labour Party and did not intend to contest the next general election in Glasgow. Galloway's Glasgow Kelvin seat was split between three neighbouring constituencies for the May 2005 general election. One of these, the new Glasgow Central constituency, might have been his best chance with a relatively large Muslim vote. However, his long-time friend Mohammad Sarwar, the first Muslim Labour MP and a strong opponent of the Iraq War, wanted to be selected as the candidate; Galloway chose not to challenge him. After the 2004 European election results became known, Galloway announced that he would stand in Bethnal Green and Bow, the area where Respect had its strongest election results and where the sitting Labour MP, Oona King, supported the Iraq War. On 2 December, despite speculation that he might stand in Newham, he confirmed that he would be the candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow.

Galloway in September 2005.

The ensuing electoral campaign in the seat proved to be a difficult one with heated exchanges between Galloway, King and their supporters.[98] The BBC reported that Galloway had himself been threatened with death by extreme Islamists from the banned organisation al-Ghurabaa. All the major candidates united in condemning the threats and violence.[99] On 5 May, Galloway won the seat by 823 votes and denounced the returning officer over alleged discrepancies in the electoral process. When challenged during the BBC's election night coverage by Jeremy Paxman as to whether he was happy to have removed one of the few black women in Parliament, Galloway replied "I don't believe that people get elected because of the colour of their skin. I believe that people get elected because of their record and because of their policies."[100] During the same BBC interview Jeremy Paxman accused Galloway of being a demagogue.[100]

Oona King later told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that she found Paxman's line of questioning inappropriate. "He shouldn't be barred from running against me because I'm a black woman. ... I was not defined, or did not wish to be defined, by either my ethnicity or religious background."[101]

"It's good to be back", Galloway said on being sworn in as MP for Bethnal Green after the May election. He pledged to represent "the people that New Labour has abandoned" and to "speak for those who have nobody else to speak for them."[102]

The 7/7 suicide bombings and after

In the House of Commons, on the day of the 7 July 2005 London bombings that killed 52 people and injured hundreds more, Galloway condemned the attacks strongly, but argued that they could not be separated from the hatred and bitterness felt among Muslims because of injustices in Iraq suffered as a result of British foreign policy:

Winding up the debate for the government, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram described Galloway's remarks as "disgraceful" and accused Galloway of "dipping his poisonous tongue in a pool of blood."[105] No time remained for Galloway to intervene and he ran afoul of the Deputy Speaker when trying to make a point of order about Ingram's attack. He later went on to describe Ingram as a "thug" who had committed a "foul-mouthed, deliberately timed, last-10-seconds smear."[106] The two men had previously clashed over claims in Galloway's autobiography (see below).

In an interview with Piers Morgan for GQ Magazine in May 2006, Galloway was asked whether a suicide bomb attack on Tony Blair with "no other casualties" would be morally justifiable "as revenge for the war on Iraq?" He answered "Yes it would be morally justified. I am not calling for it, but if it happened it would be of a wholly different moral order than the events of 7/7. It would be entirely logical and explicable, and morally equivalent to ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq as Blair did." He further stated that if he knew about such a plan he would inform the relevant authorities, saying: "I would [tell the police], because such an operation would be counterproductive because it would just generate a new wave of anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sentiment whipped up by the press. It would lead to new draconian anti-terror laws, and would probably strengthen the resolve of the British and American services in Iraq rather than weaken it. So yes, I would inform the authorities."[107] Christopher Hitchens claimed that this was a call for an attack while appearing not to do so.[108]

Parliamentary participation statistics (2003–09)

After he was suspended and later expelled from the Labour Party, Galloway's participation in Parliamentary activity fell to minimal levels. After speaking in a debate on Iraq on 25 March 2003, Galloway did not intervene in any way in Parliamentary debates or ask any oral questions for the remainder of the Parliament and his participation in House of Commons divisions was among the lowest of any MP.[109]

Following the 2005 election, his participation rate remained low, and at the end of the year he had participated in only 15% of Divisions in the House of Commons since the general election, placing him 634th of 645 MPs. Of the eleven MPs below him in the rankings, one was the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, five were Sinn Féin members who have an abstentionist policy toward taking their seats, three were the speaker and deputy speakers and therefore ineligible to vote, and two had died since the election. Galloway claims a record of unusual activity at a "grass roots" level. His own estimate is that he made 1,100 public speeches between September 2001 and May 2005.[110]

In September 2009, he still had one of the lowest voting participation records in parliament at 8.4% as a total of 93 votes out of a possible 1,113 divisions.[111]

Suspension from the House of Commons

On 17 July 2007, following a four-year inquiry, the House of Commons Select Committee on Standards and Privileges published its sixth report. The Committee concluded that there was no evidence that Galloway gained any personal benefit from either the former Iraqi administration, or from the Oil-for-Food Programme, but admitted that some documents had been unavailable to them.

But:

It found that Galloway's use of parliamentary resources to support his work on the Mariam Appeal "went beyond what was reasonable."

In response, Galloway stated

At a press conference following publication of the report, Galloway stated "To be deprived of the company for 18 days of the honourable ladies and gentleman behind me [in parliament] will be painful ... but I'm intending to struggle on regardless. ... What really upset them [the committee] is that I always defend myself."[116]

Galloway's suspension was not intended to be immediate, and he was given the opportunity to defend himself in front of the committee members in the House of Commons on 23 July 2007. During the debate, Galloway repeatedly called into question the motives of the members of the Select Committee, in particular claiming that some of them were members of a political organisation named "Indict" and were persecuting him for speaking out against the Iraq War. Speaker Michael Martin warned Galloway that his accusations were not relevant to the matter at hand, but he rejected the warning and responded by saying that Martin would have to order him out of the house if he had any issue with the accusations. Martin therefore named Galloway, leading to the attending members voting to trigger his suspension from Parliament that day rather than wait until after the summer recess as had been recommended.[117]

Candidate in other elections

On 10 August 2007, Galloway confirmed that he would stand in newly created constituency of Poplar and Limehouse[118][119] where the Labour Party had a notional majority of 3,942.[120] The Labour candidate was the current Poplar and Canning Town MP Jim Fitzpatrick. Galloway said he had planned to stand down from Parliament at the next election, but was prompted to stay on and fight to win the neighbouring east London constituency after he felt he was unfairly suspended from Parliament for 18 days. In the election Galloway was defeated, coming third after the Labour and Conservative candidates. He received 8,460 votes. Galloway headed the post-split Respect (London-wide) top-up list for the London Assembly election, 2008 but was not selected.[121]

On 5 May 2011, in the Scottish Parliament general election, 2011, the Respect Party, on whose list Galloway was standing in the Glasgow electoral region, received 6,972 votes (3.3%), failing to achieve any seats in the Holyrood Parliament.[122][123]

Israel and Palestine (2005–11)

In an interview with the American radio host Alex Jones in September 2005, he said: "This is the thing about Zionism. It has nothing to do with Jewishness. Some of the biggest Zionists in the world are not Jews. These people have used Jewish people. [...] They created the conditions in the Arab countries and in some European countries to stampede Jewish people out of the countries that they had been living in for many hundreds of years and stampede them into the Zionist state."[124] During an interview for Al-Jazeera television on 17 November 2005 he said his election as MP earlier in the year was "despite all the efforts made by the British government, the Zionist movement and the newspapers and news media which are controlled by Zionism."[125] Later in a May 2009 speech he said: "I do not agree with the argument that there is a shadowy Jewish influence. Israel is doing what America wants it to do and to argue otherwise is to go down the dark tunnel of racist antisemitism."[126]

At a 22 July 2006 demonstration (and later in a Socialist Worker op-ed),[127] Galloway stated "Hezbollah has never been a terrorist organisation!" The National Union of Students of the United Kingdom passed a motion condemning Galloway for this statement. In 2009, Galloway received a Palestinian passport from Hamas leader Ismail Haniya. Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel, the European Union, and the US.[128]

Galloway expressed support for the Syrian presence in Lebanon five months before it ended, telling the Daily Star of Lebanon "Syrian troops in Lebanon maintain stability and protect the country from Israel." In the same article he expressed his opposition to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, which urged the Lebanese Government to establish control over all its territory.[129]

In an interview with the Hizbullah run Al-Manar TV, which aired on 26 July 2011 (as translated by MEMRI), Galloway accused Israel of being responsible for the assassination of Rafiq Al-Hariri, stating that "Israel was the only country with any interest and any benefit to gain from the assassination of the martyr Rafiq Al-Hariri. They are the ones who had the capability to do so, they are the ones who had the motive for doing so, and they are the ones who had the criminal record for doing so. How many hundreds of people has Israel killed in Lebanon? Assassination squads of people landing on the beach, and people planting bombs of one kind or another..." He further stated that "When this inquiry [the Special Tribunal for Lebanon] refused to lead in that direction, I knew it was a fake inquiry" and that "this process and all these individuals are completely discredited."[130][131][132]

Several months earlier in a speech given in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in November 2010, Galloway stated that

“I believe, and I don’t know anybody who is objective in this matter who does not believe, that Hezbollah are absolutely innocent of this crime, and it is time that the tribunal looked to the people who benefited from this crime...in Israel."[133]

Viva Palestina aid convoys

Main article: Viva Palestina

In response to the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, Galloway instigated the Viva Palestina aid convoy to the Gaza Strip in January 2009. On 14 February 2009, after raising over £1 million-worth of humanitarian aid in four weeks, Galloway and hundreds of volunteers launched the convoy comprising approximately 120 vehicles intended for use in the Strip, including a fire engine donated by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), 12 ambulances, a boat and trucks full of medicines, tools, clothes, blankets and gifts for children. The 5,000-mile route passed through Belgium, France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.[134]

On 20 February, Galloway condemned Lancashire Police after they arrested nine of the volunteers under the Terrorism Act a day before the convoy's launch. Galloway said: "The arrests were clearly deliberately timed for the eve of the departure of the convoy. Photographs of the high-profile snatch on the M65 were immediately fed to the press to maximise the newsworthiness of the smear that was being perpetrated on the convoy." Viva Palestina reported an 80% drop in donations following the broadcast of the arrests and the police allegations on the BBC.[135]

The convoy arrived in Gaza on 9 March,[136] accompanied by approximately 180 extra trucks of aid donated by Libya's Gaddafi Foundation. On 10 March 2009, Galloway announced at a press conference in Gaza City attended by several senior Hamas officials: "We are giving you now 100 vehicles and all of their contents, and we make no apology for what I am about to say. We are giving them to the elected government of Palestine," adding that he would personally donate three cars and 25,000 pounds to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.[137]

The Charity Commission opened a statutory inquiry into Viva Palestina on 23 March 2009, citing concerns over the finances, use of funds for non-charitable purposes, and the lack of "substantive response" to their repeated requests.[138] He argued that the Charity Commission's actions were suspicious, hinting that they might be politically motivated.[138] On 8 April 2009, Galloway joined Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic to launch Viva Palestina US.[139]

A third Viva Palestina convoy began travelling at the end of 2009. On 8 January 2010, Galloway and his colleague Ron McKay were deported from Egypt immediately following their entry from Gaza. They had been attempting to help take about 200 aid trucks into the Gaza Strip. They were driven by the police to the airport and put on a plane to London.[140][141]

The Foreign Ministry of Egypt released a statement reading: "George Galloway is considered persona non grata and will not be allowed to enter into Egypt again". Shortly after his deportation Galloway said, "It is a badge of honour to be deported by a dictatorship" and "I've been thrown out of better joints than that."[142]

Viva Palestina was registered as a charity in April 2009 but, following its continued non-submission of accounts, ceased to be recognised as a charitable organisation in November 2013.[143]

Other international activities

Support for the Iranian government

Galloway has attracted criticism from both the Left and the Right for his comments relating to the government in Iran, and his work for the state-run satellite television channel, Press TV. (See TV presenter for the Arab world and Russia below.)

Galloway asserted on The Wright Stuff chat show (13 March 2008) that the executed boyfriend of homosexual Iranian asylum seeker Mehdi Kazemi was executed for sex crimes rather than for being homosexual. Galloway also stated on The Wright Stuff that the case of gay rights in Iran was being used by supporters of a war with Iran.[144]

Scott Long, writing in The Guardian on 31 March, criticised Galloway's claim that "homosexuals are not executed in Iran, just rapists," pointing out that current law in the country stipulates that "Penetrative sex acts between men can bring death on the first conviction."[145] Long-time gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, writing in The Guardian on 26 March, accused Galloway of spouting "Iranian Propaganda," continuing: "His claim that lesbian and gay people are not at risk of execution in Iran is refuted by every reputable human rights organisation, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the International Lesbian and Gay Association."[146] (Galloway has supported equality legislation in the UK, see Record on LGBT issues (1994–2013) below.)

Non-admission to Egypt and Canada (2006, 2009)

On 3 February 2006, Galloway was refused entry into Egypt at Cairo Airport and was detained "on grounds of national security," where he had been invited to 'give evidence' at a 'mock trial' of Bush and Blair. After being detained overnight, he said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "apologised on behalf of the Egyptian people," and he was allowed to enter the country. After initial derogatory comments from Galloway[citation needed] and a spokesman for Respect regarding Mubarak's pro-Western stance and ties to Bush and Blair, Galloway later commented: "It was a most gracious apology which I accept wholeheartedly. I consider the matter now closed."[147][148]

On 20 March 2009, Galloway was advised by the Canada Border Services Agency he was deemed inadmissible to Canada on "security grounds" due to his involvement in the Viva Palestina aid convoy to the Gaza Strip following the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict.[149] The Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas, which is on Canada's list of terrorist organisations. This resulted from the personal donation of £25,000 made by Galloway ten days earlier. The Canadians ruled (and maintained on appeal) that this constituted explicit support for Hamas, although Galloway argued it was not the case as the money was intended to be used for aid purposes.[128][150]

Galloway was on a lecture tour of North America, and was due to speak on war prevention and Gaza for a United Church congregation in Toronto, as well as for events in Mississauga, Ottawa and Montreal. Galloway was also described as an "infandous street-corner Cromwell" by Alykhan Velshi, communications director for Jason Kenney, Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was accused by Jack Layton, leader of Canada's New Democratic Party (NDP), of being a "minister of censorship."[151][152]

Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, the group who invited Galloway to Canada, sought an emergency injunction to allow for his entry into Canada for the first speech in Toronto citing their rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression.[149] On 30 March 2009, the Federal Court of Canada upheld the decision of the Canada Border Services Agency.[153] Justice Luc Martineau cited the Canadian court ruling, and stated that non-citizens "do not have an unqualified right to enter in Canada. The admission of a foreign national to this country is a privilege determined by statute, regulation or otherwise, and not as a matter of right." The judge also noted "a proper factual record and the benefit of full legal argument...are lacking at the present time."[149] Subsequently, Galloway cancelled his Canadian tour and instead, delivered his speech over video link from New York to his Canadian audiences.[154]

Finally allowed entry into Canada in October 2010, after a judge concluded that the original ban had been politically motivated, Galloway continued to criticise Jason Kenney, saying that the minister had "damaged Canada's reputation" and had used "anti-terrorism" as a means of suppressing political debate.[155] He threatened to sue the Canadian government for the banning incident.[156]

Political career since 2012

2012 by-election

After the resignation of sitting Labour MP Marsha Singh due to ill health, Galloway returned to Parliament at the March 2012 Bradford West by-election in an unexpected landslide result, with Galloway calling it "the most sensational victory in British political history."[157] His 36% swing from Labour was the third-largest in modern British political history.[158] The result was seen as a major disappointment for Labour, with Galloway speaking of his belief that it showed the "alienation" of voters from the leading three political parties.[159] Seumas Milne, in an article comparing Galloway with the French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon, observed that both men had "used a charismatic radical left populism to mobilise alienated voters at the sharp end of austerity against a political elite that has failed to deliver for them for decades."[160]

On 16 April, Galloway was sworn into Parliament by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.[161]

Julian Assange comments (August 2012)

Galloway was criticised for comments he made in August 2012 on the legal case against Wikileaks' Julian Assange in a podcast released on YouTube. Galloway stated that "I think that Julian Assange's personal sexual behaviour is something sordid, disgusting, and I condemn it."[162] Galloway continued by stating: "Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100 per cent true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don't constitute rape, at least not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it." He also stated that "not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion."[163][164][165] He continued by saying that the allegations, even if true, "don't constitute rape" because initiating sex with someone who is asleep after a sexual encounter the previous night is not rape. According to British barrister Felicity Gerry, this is not correct under English law.[166] Galloway said that Assange's alleged actions amounted to no more than "bad sexual etiquette", and he did not believe the women's story anyway.[162]

Galloway's comments were criticised by anti-rape campaigners as "ignorant", "very unhelpful", "offensive" and "deeply concerning."[165][167]

Respect leader Salma Yaqoob described Galloway's comments as "deeply disappointing and wrong."[168] She subsequently resigned from her post and the party.[169] Yaqoob later stated that having to choose between Galloway's “anti-imperialist stances” and standing up for the rights of women was "a false choice."[163][169]

Galloway was also sharply criticised by Labour councillor Naveeda Ikram, (then) Bradford's Lord Mayor (who is a Muslim), who stated that women were "outraged" and added that “Muslim women, in particular, played a large role in electing Mr. Galloway for Bradford West."[163]

Galloway subsequently lost his job as a columnist for Holyrood, a Scottish political magazine, for refusing to apologise for his remarks.[170]

Israel and Zionism (2012–present)

Speeches in 2012 and 2013

On 27 November 2012, Galloway branded Zionism "a blasphemy against Judaism and against God," again praised Hamas and repudiated Israel. This call was made during an anti-Israel demonstration by members of his new constituency, at which Galloway said: "We do not hate Jews. We hate Zionism, we hate Israel, we hate murder and injustice. Israel blasphemes against the Torah by calling itself a Jewish state." This was followed by a call for the outlawing of dual British-Israeli citizenship.[171]

On 20 February 2013, Galloway walked out of a publicised debate when he found out that his opponent had Israeli citizenship. The debate, hosted by Christ Church, a constituent college of Oxford University,[172] was on the topic "Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank." His opponent in the debate was Eylon Aslan-Levy.[173] While Levy was speaking, Galloway interrupted him, asking "Are you an Israeli?" When Levy, a third-year PPE student at Brasenose College[174] acknowledged this (he is of joint British-Israeli nationality),[175] Galloway stood up and stated "I don't recognize Israel and I don't debate with Israelis" and left the meeting. Explaining his actions on his Facebook page, Galloway wrote:

Aslan-Levy was quoted in Cherwell as saying: "I am appalled that an MP would storm out of a debate with me for no reason other than my heritage. To refuse to talk to someone just because of their nationality is pure racism, and totally unacceptable for a member of parliament."[174] Aslan-Levy later told the Daily Mail that "[Mr Galloway] clearly had a problem not because I am Israeli – I'm sure he would have talked to an Israeli Arab, he didn't want to talk to me because I am an Israeli Jew."[177][178][179][180][181] Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, stated: "It is pretty pathetic that George Galloway walked out of the debate when he found out that another speaker was Israeli."[182]

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee subsequently released a statement indicating that while it does support a "boycott of Israel," the campaign rejects "a boycott of individuals because she or he happens to be Israeli or because they express certain views."[9][172]

Galloway later claimed on his Twitter feed that he had been "misled", writing that "Christ Church never informed us that the debate would be with an Israeli. Simple."[182] However, the debate's organiser, Mahmood Naji, flatly denied Galloway's claim that there was an attempt to mislead him. In an open letter to Galloway, Naji stated: "At no point during my email exchange with Mr Galloway's secretary was Eylon's nationality ever brought up or mentioned...nor do I expect to have to tell the speaker what his opponent's nationality is."[172][183][184] In the letter, Naji stated that "I was not intending on replying until I saw you once again attempt to, in my opinion, slander me on Press TV." Naji also released a series of email correspondences with Galloway's secretary.[185]

Speech in Leeds, August 2014

On 2 August 2014, during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, Galloway delivered a speech at a public meeting in Leeds.[186] He said:

David Ward, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East who has come into conflict with his party because of his opinions concerning Israel and the Palestinians, stated that while "Israel-free zone" was a "nice sound bite", any such boycott would have to be implemented at the national level.[187] However, Ward also stated that "It is quite dangerous talk, because the danger is of course that anybody from a Jewish background - because people will not necessarily differentiate - is then subject to abuse and anti-Semitic acts."[186]

Galloway's remarks drew sharp criticism from British politicians and Jewish leaders. Conservative MP Robert Halfon described Galloway's words as an "ill-considered rant that will cause great offence to many" while adding that "most Bradford citizens are like British people as a whole: tolerant and decent – and will ignore Mr Galloway’s demands, treating them with the contempt they deserve."[188] Jonathan Arkush, who serves as vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews stated that Galloway "is so intolerant he can’t bear to have someone with an opposing view in his town."[189][190]

Daniel Taub, Israel's ambassador to Britain, subsequently visited Bradford on 18 August in response to an invitation, where he met with local councillors, faith leaders and community representatives.[191] In an interview, Taub commented that that his visit was proof that "the people of Bradford [have] sent a clear message that George Galloway does not represent them."[192] Galloway told a reporter from the BuzzFeed website: "As has just been proved, I cannot make Bradford an Israel-free zone, but I am certain that the Israeli ambassador was not welcome."[189][193] Galloway accused the councillors who had invited the ambassador of fraternising with a "mouthpiece for murder."[194]

West Yorkshire Police had said earlier in the month that they were investigating two complaints which had been made following Galloway's speech to determine if Galloway's words constituted hate speech (British law prohibits discrimination based on nationality).[187][188] It emerged on 19 August that Galloway had been questioned under caution by West Yorkshire police in Leeds, and the matter would be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.[195][196]

Galloway subsequently criticized the police investigation, describing it as "an absolute and despicable attempt to curb my freedom of speech by people who appear to be quite happy about the indiscriminate murder of Palestinians in Gaza. I won't be silenced, I will keep speaking out against horrendous injustice."[197] Galloway claimed that the complaints against him were made "by people who apparently find it excusable to incinerate innocent children and babies."[198]

Legal case involving Galloway (2012–14)

Galloway's Respect Party claimed on 14 October 2013 that he had been subjected to a "dirty tricks" campaign involving an "agent,"[199] his former parliamentary assistant Aisha Ali Khan, and a Metropolitan Police counter terrorism officer, Detective Inspector Afiz Khan, her husband, a fact Galloway denied being aware of.[200] Ali-Khan in turn complained to the Met that Galloway, or someone connected with him, had hacked into her email accounts as extracts from her communications were quoted by Galloway when he wrote to the home secretary, Theresa May, asking for an inquiry.[200][201]

Aisha Ali Khan was charged in July 2013 with data protection offences involving the obtaining of personal data without consent while she was Galloway's secretary.[202] In addition, her husband was charged with misconduct in public office and data protection offences. It is alleged he accessed restricted information about the arrest of radical Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary (who was not charged with any offence)[203] before passing the information to his wife while she working for Galloway.[204] The couple appeared at Westminster magistrates court on 14 August 2013.[205] In December 2013, Afiz Khan pleaded guilty to two charges, one of which concerned the leaking of information about Choudary to his wife.[203] Ali Khan pleaded guilty in June 2014 to encouraging him.[203][206] Ali Khan was sentenced at the end of July 2014 and received a conditional discharge for 12 months. At the same hearing, her husband was sentenced to a prison sentence of 6 months suspended for two years with £500 costs awarded against him.[207] The presiding judge at the hearing at Southwark Crown Court said that there is nothing in the case "which casts aspersions of any nature on Mr Galloway."[207]

Bradford and the 2016 London Mayoral election

After several months of inconclusive reports in the media,[208] on 10 August 2013, the Bradford Telegraph & Argus reported that Galloway might not be a candidate in Bradford at the 2015 general election and instead stand in the 2016 London Mayoral election.[209] Two of the five Respect councillors in Bradford, elected shortly after his by-election win, were suspended after they said that Galloway should resign as an MP if he intended to stand in the London election for Mayor.[210] Shortly afterwards they and three colleagues resigned the party whip,[211] and towards the end of October, left the Respect Party itself.[212]

In October 2013, the Total Politics magazine published an interview with Galloway in which he admitted: "I like elections more than I like serving," and said that he found being an MP was "2% terrifying, and 98% tedium." He again commented that he was considering running for London Mayor in 2016, but had not yet decided to do so.[213][214]

Other domestic and international issues

Galloway advocates greater spending on welfare benefits, and some nationalisation of large industries. He is not though in favour of command economies; some things he believes, such as restaurants, are better run privately.[17] Galloway is opposed to abortion, although he supports Respect's pro-choice stance.

Scotland and the UK

Galloway has long supported devolution for Scotland, but opposes Scottish independence. In the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum, to be held on 18 September 2014, Galloway has been dismissive of the official Better Together campaign because it also involves Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and he believes its leader, Alistair Darling, to be ineffective.[215] Galloway's argument is based on a defence of "class" over "nation." He believes that if Scotland becomes independent it will harm Labour's prospects in the remaining UK.[215] He has argued in favour of greater Scottish devolution, and advocated the (rejected) "devo-max" option being included on the referendum's ballot papers.[216] From late 2013, Galloway held public meetings in Scotland using the slogan of "Just Say Naw."[217] On 11 September 2014, Galloway took part in Scotland Decides: The Big, Big Debate, an independence debate held in Glasgow and broadcast by the BBC during the evening. He appeared with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson against Yes campaigners Nicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie.[218][219]

Syria

As well as his better known international concerns, Galloway has taken an interest in Syria, Libya and Pakistan. Of Bashar al-Assad, and the country he leads, he said during a visit to the University of Damascus in November 2005: "For me he is the last Arab ruler, and Syria is the last Arab country. It is the fortress of the remaining dignity of the Arabs,"[220] and a "breath of fresh air,"[221] although he has since distanced himself from the Assad administration.[222]

Record on LGBT issues (1994–2013)

In 1994, Galloway voted in support of the equalisation of the age of consent for homosexuality (which was then 21 years) with that for heterosexuality at 16 years.[223] He also voted against a reduction of the homosexual age of consent to 18.[224] He voted in favour of permitting unmarried and gay couples to adopt children.[225] Critics have claimed that his involvement in the leadership of Respect – which made no explicit mention of gay rights in its 2005 election manifesto[226] and accepted donations from Islamic Party members[227] – raise questions about his commitment to those issues.[228] However, Respect's 2005 conference, in which Galloway took part, resolved that explicit defence of equal rights and calls for the end to all discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people would be made in all of its manifestos and principal election materials.[229] (In 2008 Galloway made comments about the case of the gay Iranian asylum seeker Mehdi Kazemi and his executed lover. For this, see Support for the Iranian government above.)

In February 2013, he voted in favour of same-sex marriage.[230]

Media activities

Publishing, writing and journalism

Galloway has been involved in several publishing companies. He was a director of Asian Voice Ltd, which published a newspaper called East for six months during 1996 and 1997.[231] The paper's funding, undeclared in the House of Commons register of members' interests, came from the government of Benazir Bhutto, but ceased following her second government loss of power.[231] "Documents show that the Pakistan government agreed an initial budget for the weekly newspaper of £547,000. According to a memorandum dated 2 January 1996, the Pakistan government proposed to "covertly sponsor" the publication, with money allocated to "the Secret Fund of the High Commissioner for Pakistan in the UK as a special grant for the project."[232] The Commons Committee cleared Galloway of any wrongdoing in this matter.[233]

His autobiography, I'm Not The Only One (a quote from John Lennon's song "Imagine"), was published on 28 April 2004.[234] Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram applied for an interim interdict to prevent the book's publication. Ingram asserted that Galloway's text, which stated that Ingram "played the flute in a sectarian, anti-Catholic, Protestant-supremacist Orange Order band," was in bad faith and defamatory, although Ingram's lawyers conceded that for a year as a teenager he had been a member of a junior Orange Lodge in Barlanark, Glasgow, and had attended three parades. The Judge, Lord Kingarth, decided to refuse an interim interdict, that the balance of the arguments favoured Galloway's publisher, and that the phrase "sectarian, anti-Catholic, Protestant-supremacist" was fair comment on that organisation. Although Ingram was not and never had been a flute-player, the defending advocate observed that "playing the flute carries no obvious defamatory imputation ... it is not to the discredit of anyone that he plays the flute." The judge ruled that Ingram should pay the full court costs of the hearing.[235]

In August 2011, Galloway's book entitled Open Season: The Neil Lennon Story[236] which explores anti-Irish and anti-Catholic bigotry in Scotland and describes many of the related hardships which have befallen Celtic manager Neil Lennon throughout his footballing career. Galloway himself has claimed that he was the victim of a sectarian attack at Glasgow Airport on 10 June 2007.[237][238]

Galloway has contributed a weekly column in the Daily Record for many years in which he expresses his opinions on popular culture as well as politics. He used this column to reveal he was considering running for a seat in the Scottish Parliament in the May 2011 election.[239] Galloway is an occasional contributor to The Guardian newspaper and website.[240]

Celebrity Big Brother

In January 2006 Galloway appeared on the fourth series of the reality show for nearly three weeks.[241] During his time on the programme he mimed licking milk, while pretending to be a cat, from the cupped hands of another housemate, actress Rula Lenska. Galloway, a member of parliament, faced a claim from Hilary Armstrong, then Labour's Chief Whip, that he should "respect his constituents, not his ego."[242] Galloway wrote in a column for The Independent newspaper in November 2012: "My antics on Big Brother were actually the same stunts that BBC presenters and celebs get up for Children in Need", "raised tens of thousands of pounds for the" Interpal charity and paid for an "extra caseworker in my constituency."[243]

talkSPORT

The Mother of All Talk Shows
Genre Political discussion
Running time Friday 22:00–01:00
Saturday 22:00–01:00
Country UK
Language(s) English
Home station talkSPORT
Syndicates Talk 107
Host(s) George Galloway
Recording studio Central London
Opening theme The theme from Top Cat

On 11 March 2006, Galloway started broadcasting on talkSPORT a British commercial radio station owned by UTV, and two weeks later started a simultaneous broadcast on Talk 107, TalkSPORT's Edinburgh-based sister station. Billed as "The Mother of All Talk Shows," Galloway decided to begin every broadcast with the theme from the Top Cat cartoon series.[244]

Galloway stopped presenting the show on 27 March 2010, due to campaign commitments in the 2010 UK General Election.[245]

In August 2010, Galloway returned to the station with a new show in a similar format, but titled The Week with George Galloway, described by the station as a "No-holds barred review of the past seven days around the world."[246] The end of Galloway's programme was announced in March 2012 in common with the dropping of all the non-sport elements of its schedule[247] at the beginning of April.

TV presenter for the Arab world and Russia

Galloway began presenting a programme titled The Real Deal on 21 May 2007. Originally on Raj TV, a satellite channel primarily aimed at the British Asian community, the show was resurrected, following a short break, on 10 February 2008 by Press TV, a London-based news channel controlled by the government of Iran. The series was still running in late 2011.[248] Galloway hosts a 45-minute weekly current affairs show Comment on Press TV.[249]

In 2009, the British telecommunications regulator Ofcom criticised Galloway for breaching their broadcasting code by "breaking impartiality rules" in several of his Press TV programmes on the war in Gaza in which Israeli opinion failed to be "'adequately represented.'"[250][251]

Shortly after its foundation in 2012, Galloway became a presenter with the Al Mayadeen television station which has connections with Iran and the Assad government in Syria.[252][253]

In November 2013, Galloway with his wife Gayatri began to present Sputnik for the Russian RT network.[254]

Press Gazette reported in July 2014 that in the register of MP's financial interests Galloway had declared earnings of £64,050 for his broadcasting work in the first four months of 2014.[255]

Clashes with the News of the World

In March 2006 Galloway said that News of the World undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood, who used a "fake sheikh" disguise to entrap celebrities, targeted him in an sting operation at a meeting in the Dorchester Hotel with businessmen from the middle east.[256] Galloway said that Mahmood tried but failed to implicate him in illegal party funding, and to agree with antisemitic statements.[20][257] The News of the World admitted their journalist had been present, but asserted that he had involved in "wholly legitimate inquiries."[258] Mahmood himself denied the use of antisemitic comments.[258] Media commentator Roy Greenslade accused Mahmood and the NOtW, in its use of "subterfuge", of adopting practices which "debase journalism."[259]

Galloway wrote to the Metropolitan Police commissioner and the Speaker of the House of Commons about the incident. He also released photographs of Mahmood and revealed other aspects of his activities.[257][260] The News of the World lost a High Court action to prevent publication of photographs of Mahmood.[261]

Galloway stated that the Metropolitan Police Service told him they had evidence he was targeted by Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator working for the News of the World. In 2010 Galloway began legal action for breach of privacy. In 2012 it was reported that Galloway had settled out of court, along with many other victims of phone hacking.[262] The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but he had previously claimed to have been offered "substantial sums of money" by NOTW to settle out of court.[263] The settlement with News International in respect of phone-hacking was understood not to cover the earlier legal dispute regarding the activities of Mazher Mahmood.

The Killing of Tony Blair

Galloway announced his intention to make a documentary film in August 2013 about Tony Blair to be financed by online public subscription raised via the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.[264] According to Galloway, the target for funding had been reached three times over by the end of October 2013.[213]

Personal life

Marriages

From 1979 to 1999, he was married to Elaine Fyffe, with whom he has a daughter, Lucy (born 1983), who herself has four children.[254] The couple separated in 1987 and divorced in 1999.[35]

In 1994, he married Dr Amineh Abu-Zayyad in a Muslim ceremony; a civil ceremony around 2000 followed his divorce from Fyffe. Abu-Zayyad was granted a "quickie" divorce at the beginning of 2009, after an estrangement of several years, on the grounds of "unreasonable behaviour". The petition was not contested.[265] In 2007, he married his third wife Lebanese former researcher, Rima Husseini, in a Muslim ceremony. The couple had two sons.[35]

In March 2012, Galloway married his fourth wife, Putri Gayatri Pertiwi, a consultant with a Dutch research firm[266] in an Islamic ceremony in Amsterdam.[267] The couple announced in January 2014 that they are expecting their first child.[254] A son was born in July 2014.

Private opinions

By his own account, he decided, at the age of 18, never to drink alcohol. He disapproves of it and describes it as having a "very deleterious effect on people."[13][268] He stated at a March 2012 rally "We stand for justice and haqq" and "A Muslim is somebody who is not afraid of earthly power but who fears only the Judgment Day. I’m ready for that, I’m working for that and it's the only thing I fear."[269]

In April 2012, Jemima Khan interviewed Galloway for the New Statesman magazine. In the article, Khan asserted that the politician had become a Muslim around 2000, but had not advertised this fact.[270][271] Galloway subsequently denied that the ceremony had taken place: "I have never attended any such ceremony in Kilburn, Karachi or Kathmandu. It is simply and categorically untrue." He does not answer questions about his religious beliefs saying that this is a "personal matter."[267]

Assault in August 2014

During the evening of 29 August 2014, while posing for photographs taken by members of the public in Golborne Road, Notting Hill, Galloway was assaulted by a man who shouted references to the Holocaust and referred to Galloway as "a Hitler."[272]

Galloway suffered a (suspected) broken jaw[272] and a rib in addition to severe bruising on his head and face.[273][274][275] Galloway was admitted to St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, where he stayed overnight, but was discharged early the following morning.[276] The commentator Peter Oborne on 1 September found the lack of comment about the incident, or empathy for Galloway, from the political mainstream "very disturbing." Although Galloway is a "very controversial figure" and "many people" do "disagree very strongly with his views", in Oborne's opinion that "is irrelevant" because the assault Galloway suffered is "an attack on British democracy."[277]

A 39-year old man has been charged with religiously aggravated assault.[278][279] At a hearing held on 1 September at Hammersmith magistrates court, the defendant gave a not guilty plea.[280] According to the prosecutor: "He said he carried out the attack because he felt the victim was [an] enemy of Judaism" and that the defendant had told the police "I didn't want him to think I'm scared, Galloway is Anti-semitic and I am Jewish."[281] The man was remanded in custody.[282] At Isleworth Crown Court on 15 September the defendant changed his plea, admitting the assault, but still denying that it was religiously aggravated, and will stand trial on 10 November.[283]

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Further reading

Author

  • I'm Not The Only One (2005) by George Galloway
  • Mr Galloway Goes to Washington (2005) by George Galloway
  • Fidel Castro Handbook (2006), MQ Publications. ISBN 1-84072-688-1
  • Respect: Documents of the Crisis (2008) with Salma Yaqoob and Alan Thornett

Biography

  • David Morley Gorgeous George: The Life and Adventures of George Galloway, Politico's Publishing, 2007 ISBN 978-1842751855

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Roy Jenkins
Member of Parliament for Glasgow Hillhead
19871997
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Glasgow Kelvin
19972005
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Oona King
Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow
20052010
Succeeded by
Rushanara Ali
Preceded by
Marsha Singh
Member of Parliament for Bradford West
2012 – present
Incumbent