Galloway at a Stop the War event in February 2007
|Member of Parliament
for Bradford West
29 March 2012 – 30 March 2015
|Preceded by||Marsha Singh|
|Succeeded by||Naz Shah|
|Member of Parliament
for Bethnal Green and Bow
6 May 2005 – 12 April 2010
|Preceded by||Oona King|
|Succeeded by||Rushanara Ali|
|Member of Parliament
for Glasgow Kelvin
2 May 1997 – 11 April 2005
|Preceded by||Constituency created|
|Succeeded by||Constituency abolished|
|Member of Parliament
for Glasgow Hillhead
12 June 1987 – 4 April 1997
|Preceded by||Roy Jenkins|
|Succeeded by||Constituency abolished|
16 August 1954 |
|Political party||Labour (1967–2003)
|Domestic partner||Amineh Abu-Zayyad (1994–2000)|
|Children||1 daughter and 3 sons|
George Galloway (born 16 August 1954) is a British politician, broadcaster, and writer. Between the general elections in 1987 and 2015, with a gap between 2010 and 2012, he represented four constituencies as a Member of Parliament, elected as a candidate for the Labour Party and later the Respect Party.
After becoming the youngest ever Chairman of the Scottish Labour Party in 1981, he became General Secretary of the London-based charity War on Want in 1983, remaining in the post until he was elected as a Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead at the 1987 general election. From 1997, Galloway represented its successor constituency Glasgow Kelvin, and remained as the MP for the seat until the 2005 general election. In October 2003, Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party, having been found guilty by the party's national constitutional committee of four of the five charges of bringing the party into disrepute. Although a number of Labour MPs opposed the Iraq War, Galloway was the only one to be expelled from the party for his statements concerning the conflict. He was also accused in 2003 of calling on Arabs to fight British troops, one of the reasons given for his expulsion.
In 2004, he became a member of Respect–The Unity Coalition, later known as the Respect Party (eventually becoming its leader by late 2013), and was elected as MP for Bethnal Green and Bow at the general election the following year.
After unsuccessfully contesting the seat of Poplar and Limehouse in the 2010 General Election, he returned to Westminster at the Bradford West by-election in 2012. He lost his seat at the 2015 general election, after a campaign in which he was accused of making false statements about the successful Labour candidate, Naz Shah, and was reported to the police for allegedly breaking election law. During the general election campaign, Galloway announced that if he lost Bradford West, he would stand in the election for London Mayor in 2016. Galloway was accused of making "cutting personal attacks" about Labour's Mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan. However, Khan was elected as Mayor, while Galloway came seventh, on 1.4% of the vote. In the 2016 EU membership referendum, he backed the Grassroots Out campaign which advocated a "Leave" vote.
Early in his career, Galloway was an opponent of Saddam Hussein, but he has been accused by David Aaronovitch and Christopher Hitchens of changing his mind about the Iraqi leader when it became Western policy not to support him. Galloway visited Iraq in 1994 and delivered a speech to Saddam Hussein, which ended with the statement: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability." He has maintained that he was addressing the Iraqi people in the speech. Galloway testified to the United States Senate in 2005 over alleged illicit payments from the United Nations' Oil for Food Program. Galloway supports the Palestinian side of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, taking an anti-Zionist stance, and was involved in the Viva Palestina aid convoys.
A long-standing associate of Jeremy Corbyn, Galloway has supported the Labour leader since Corbyn's election in September 2015. The Respect Party "voluntarily deregistered" itself at the Electoral Commission in August 2016. Galloway was described by Tom Happold of The Guardian in 2005 as being "renowned for his colourful rhetoric and combative debating style." The Spectator awarded him Debater of the Year in 2001.
- 1 Early life and career
- 2 Political career (1987–2005)
- 3 Oil for Food
- 4 Before and after the 2005 general election
- 5 Celebrity Big Brother
- 6 Other parliamentary and political developments (2003–11)
- 7 International activities
- 8 Political career since 2012
- 8.1 Wins 2012 by-election
- 8.2 Julian Assange comments (August 2012)
- 8.3 Israel and Zionism (2012–present)
- 8.4 Before and after the 2015 general election
- 9 Other domestic and international issues
- 10 Media activities
- 11 Personal life
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
Early life and career
Background and education
Galloway was born on 16 August 1954 in Dundee; the eldest of three, he has a younger brother and sister, Graham and Colette. His teetotal parents were George Galloway senior, a Scottish trade unionist, and Sheila (née Reilly) who is of Irish descent. Initially raised in Lochee, 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." His father began as an electrician, before becoming an electro-mechanical engineer at NCR. After being laid off, he retrained as a teacher. 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 critical of British pretensions in the world. Galloway took his mother's side in arguments. 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.
He grew up in Charleston, Dundee and attended Charleston Primary and then Harris Academy, a non-denominational school, playing for the school football team as well as for West End United U12s, Lochee Boys Club U16s and St Columbus U18s. According to Galloway, he grew a moustache at 15, and refused to shave it off when his headmaster objected. He decided, at the age of 18, never to drink alcohol; the reason was originally derived from comments by his father, and he has described alcohol as having a "very deleterious effect on people".
Labour Party organiser
Galloway joined the Labour Party Young Socialists at 13 years old (although he said he was 15) and was still a teenager when he became secretary of the Dundee Labour Party. He recalled in 2007: "As a teenager, I fell in love with the example of Che Guevara," the Argentinian revolutionary. Galloway wrote in the same year that he still admires Guevara.
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 Gillburn ward in Dundee. He was defeated by the Independent 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. 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, after holding the vice-chairman post over the previous year.
After a trip to Beirut, 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." He supported Dundee City Council when it flew the Palestinian flag inside the City Chambers, and was involved in the twinning of Dundee with the Palestinian West Bank town of Nablus in 1980. "Unbelievably controversial, and I did it without preparing people properly for the storm", he recalled more than 30 years later.
In late 1981, Galloway was interviewed for the Scottish Marxist in which Galloway supported Communist Party (CPGB) affiliation with the Labour Party, in the same way as the Fabian Society does. Believing that a deficiency in political theory was being filled by the entryist infiltration of the party by the Trotskyists (such as the Militant group), Galloway thought the problem was better resolved by Communist thinking from members of the CPGB. (He was later opposed to the expulsion of members of Militant.)
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. 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."
Galloway attempted in 1983 to stand for the safe Labour seat of Rhondda after the Welsh Transport and General Workers' Union and the National Union of Miners had both nominated him to succeed Alec Jones, who had died. He hoped to be selected in the newly created seat of Dunfermline East where no incumbent was standing. Galloway failed to be selected in either seat, with Rhondda selecting Allan Rogers and Dunfermline East selecting future Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
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. His deputy at the charity, Simon Stocker, recalled: "If you went into a fight with George, you knew you would never walk out with a win."
On 28 October 1986, the Daily Mirror, in a front-page story by Alastair Campbell, claimed Galloway had spent £20,000 in expenses and had been "enjoying a life of luxury." An internal investigation, and later, an independent auditor, both cleared him of the accusation of any misuse of funds, although he did repay £1,720 in contested expenses. The official history of War on Want comments about Galloway that "even though the problems were not all of his own making, his way of dealing with them heightened tensions".
Political career (1987–2005)
Member of Parliament for a Glasgow seat
In the 1987 general 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 (the name was changed to the Socialist Campaign Group some years after Galloway first became an MP).
In a 2002 Guardian interview, Galloway said he had supported the Soviet Union and asserted that its end was "the biggest catastrophe of my life". Galloway told Robert Chalmers of The Independent on Sunday in June 2012: "I am not a pacifist. I am a revolutionary. I am a Socialist who doesn't like Capitalism and who likes Imperialism less. I am a revolutionary and I support the armed struggle where there is no alternative."
At a press gathering for War on Want in September 1987, when Galloway had stood down as General Secretary to the organisation, a journalist asked him about his personal arrangements during the previous year's War on Want conference on the Greek island of Mykonos. 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." By then separated from his first wife, Galloway made front page headlines in the tabloid press at the time. Many years later, in a 2016 New Internationalist interview, he speculated that an incident of sexual abuse from a Colonel, which he suffered when he was 12, has led to a "lifelong fear of being gay and this led me into ostentatious, rapacious heterosexual promiscuity".
In February 1988 the Executive Committee of his Constituency Labour Party passed a vote of no confidence in him by 15-to-8. The constituency's general management committee voted 54-to-44 in favour of the motion a fortnight later on 22 February, although just 3 of the 25 members in the trade union section supported it. According to Tam Dalyell in 2003, the new member of parliament "was [the] only one MP that I can recollect making speeches about human rights in Iraq" in the House of Commons.
Galloway 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 Godman reportedly refused to work for Galloway in the next election, including Johann Lamont, many years later leader of the Scottish Labour Party. The following August, 13 of the 26 members of the Constituency Party's Executive Committee resigned. 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: "The quarrel we have is all about accountability, and democracy ... working in harmony, rather than any personal matters."
In 1990, a classified advertisement appeared in the left-wing Labour 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. Galloway took legal action against Tribune and pointed out that he had been to five constituency meetings in the previous year. He eventually settled for an out-of-court payment from the newspaper.
The Labour Party leadership election in 1992 saw Galloway voting for the eventual winners, John Smith for Leader and Margaret Beckett as Deputy Leader. In 1994, after Smith died, 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".
Although facing a challenge for the Labour nomination as the candidate for Glasgow Kelvin at the 1997 general election, Galloway defeated Shiona Waldron. He was unchallenged for the nomination for the 2001 election. Galloway was elected with majorities of 16,643 and 12,014 respectively. During the period he was Labour MP for Glasgow Kelvin, from 1997 to 2003, he voted against the Whip 32 times, 5 votes out of 665 (0.8%) in the 1997–2001 parliament and the majority (27 votes out of 209 or 12.9%) in the period before he was expelled from the Labour Party. During the 2001–2 session, he was the 9th most rebellious Labour MP. One of several politicians arrested in February 2001 during a protest at the Faslane nuclear base in Scotland, Galloway was convicted of a breach of the peace in July 2002 and fined £180.
Iraq from 1991
The first Gulf war
Galloway opposed the 1991 Gulf War and was critical of the effect that the subsequent sanctions had on the people of Iraq. In his book I'm Not the Only One (2004), Galloway expresses the opinion that Kuwait is "clearly a part of the greater Iraqi whole, stolen from the motherland by perfidious Albion", although Christopher Hitchens pointed out that the state existed long before Iraq had a name. The massacre of Kurds and Shias just after the 1991 Gulf war, was according to Galloway, "a civil war that involved massive violence on both sides".
Writing for The Observer in April 2003, David Aaronovitch speculated that Galloway changed his opinion of Saddam Hussein under "the belief that my enemy's enemy is my friend. Or, in the context of the modern world, any anti-American will do. When Iraq stopped being a friend of the West it became a friend of George's."
Meeting with Saddam Hussein in 1994
In January 1994, Galloway faced some of his strongest criticism on his return from a Middle-Eastern visit during which he had met Saddam Hussein. At his meeting with the Iraqi leader, 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." He ended his speech with the statement "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability." Galloway has asserted that he was saluting the Iraqi people rather than Saddam Hussein in the speech, which was translated for the Iraqi leader.
As news of the incident reached Britain, Labour leader John Smith, in a statement, said: "I deeply deplore the foolish statement made in Iraq by Mr George Galloway. In no way did he speak for the Labour Party and I wholly reject his comments." Shortly after his return, Galloway was given a "severe reprimand" by the Labour Chief Whip, Derek Foster, for his unauthorised trip to Iraq. The MP apologised for his conduct and undertook to follow future instruction from the whips.
For his contact with Saddam, Galloway was dubbed the "MP for Baghdad North". Galloway said, 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." Whereas "Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns", Galloway had "met him to try to bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war."
The Mariam Appeal
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." 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 a 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. In all, he has admitted to more than 10 meetings with Aziz.
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. 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, 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. It emerged some years later that Galloway had appealed in a letter dated 24 April 2003 to Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, to stop the investigation into the Mariam Appeal. "It received no money from Iraq", Galloway falsely asserted in the letter.
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 ... 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.
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."
Iraq and Saddam Hussein
In a House of Commons debate on 6 March 2002, Foreign Office Minister Ben Bradshaw said Galloway was "not just an apologist, but a mouthpiece, for the Iraqi regime over many years." Galloway called the Minister a liar and refused to withdraw on the grounds that Bradshaw's claim was "a clear imputation of dishonour", and the sitting was suspended due to the dispute. Bradshaw later withdrew his allegation, and Galloway apologised for using unparliamentary language. In an article by Ewen MacAskill published by The Guardian in March 2000 about a visit by Galloway to Iraq and the Middle East, the politician describes himself as a supporter of the Iraqi people and the Ba'ath Party, but not Saddam Hussein himself.
In August 2002, Galloway returned to Iraq and met Saddam Hussein for a second and final 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. His interview with Saddam was published in The Mail on Sunday. It was on this occasion that Galloway was offered Quality Street confectionery by Saddam.
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 out 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. In his memoir, I'm Not the Only One first published in 2004, Galloway wrote that "just as Stalin industrialised the Soviet Union, so on a different scale Saddam plotted Iraq's own Great Leap Forward." He continued: "He managed to keep his country together until 1991. Indeed, he is likely to have been the leader in history who came closest to creating a truly Iraqi national identity, and he developed Iraq and the living, health, social and education standards of his own people."
In 2006 a video surfaced showing Galloway greeting Uday Hussein, Saddam's eldest son, with the title of "Excellency" at Uday's palace in 1999. Galloway is heard saying he will be with Uday "until the end". By his own account in I'm Not the Only One, Galloway advised members of Saddam Hussein's government about the ways to deal with a potential American invasion:
|“||The only war that can be fought against a superpower is a war of movement. I brought Tariq Aziz all the writings of Che Guevara and Mao Tse Tung on the arts of revolutionary war and he had them translated into Arabic. Fight a war of movement, take the uniforms off, swim among the Iraqi people and whatever their views on the regime, they will undoubtedly provide deep aquifers of support for a patriotic resistance.||”|
The Iraq war and Labour Party expulsion
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. After permission for a rally in Hyde Park during the international anti-war protests on 15 February 2003 was initially refused, Galloway said the government had a choice between "half a million people at the rally or half a million people in a riot".
Just over a month later, Galloway 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 that "the best thing British troops can do is to refuse to obey illegal orders". This incitement for "British troops to defy orders" was later among the formal reasons for his expulsion from the Labour Party. He called the Labour Government "Tony Blair's lie machine."
On 18 April 2003, The Sun published an interview with Tony Blair who said: "His comments were disgraceful and wrong. The National Executive will deal with it." 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." On 6 May 2003, David Triesman, then General Secretary of the Labour Party, suspended Galloway from holding office in the party 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." Speaking on BBC Radio, Galloway said he stood by every word of the Abu Dhabi interview.
The National Constitutional Committee, responsible for internal disciplinary matters, 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, 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. A claim that, in a speech, he had congratulated a successful anti-war candidate from the Socialist Alliance in Preston was rejected.
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. 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." Galloway claimed at the time that other MPs who had opposed the war, such as Bob Marshall Andrews and Glenda Jackson, would be expelled in due course, but no other MP was expelled from the Labour Party for their statements about the Iraq war. After an article by Galloway was published in the Morning Star attacking the Labour Party, Benn wrote in his diary in June 2004, quoting from the article, that if he had successfully persuaded the NEC not to expel him, Galloway would have remained "a member of a party currently run by a 'blood-splatterd, lying, crooked group of war criminals'. It put me off George Galloway in a fairly fundamental way".
Iraq after Saddam Hussein
Galloway defended Iraqi insurgents targeting western forces as "martyrs" during August 2005 in appearances on Middle Eastern television channels, Iraqis who were with the allies security forces he called "collaborators" and said it was "normal" for them to be the targets of suicide bombers. Galloway said: "These poor Iraqis – ragged people, with their sandals, with their Kalashnikovs, with the lightest and most basic of weapons – are writing the names of their cities and towns in the stars, with 145 military operations every day, which has made the country ungovernable. We don't know who they are, we don't know their names, we never saw their faces, they don't put up photographs of their martyrs, we don't know the names of their leaders". Galloway was challenged by the BBC but denied making the "martyrs" comment.
Galloway continued to praise Tariq Aziz. In April 2005, on Al Jazeera during that year's general election campaign, he described Aziz as "an eminent diplomatic and intellectual person". In his opinion, Aziz was "a political prisoner" and Galloway advocated his release.
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." Galloway condemned the terrorist incidents of 7 July 2005 in the Commons "as a despicable act". Galloway told Piers Morgan that if he knew about a plan to assassinate Blair: "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."
"I'm opposed to a great many things Tony Blair has done", including "Blair's war in Iraq", wrote The Independent on Sunday's Joan Smith in May 2006, "but I can think of few more disgusting claims than Galloway's proposition that there could ever be a justification for blowing an elected politician to bits."
Galloway has maintained his opinion of the Iraq war. In March 2013 he wrote that "a huge right-wing conspiracy was mounted 10 years ago to manufacture a case to wage aggressive war" against Iraq.
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 claims, 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.
On 2 December, Justice David Eady ruled that the story had been "seriously defamatory", and that The Daily 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, legal costs of about £2 million.
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". The newspaper argued that it acted responsibly as the allegations it reported were of sufficient public interest to outweigh the damage caused to Galloway's reputation. The trial judge did not accept this defence, noting that comments such as Galloway being guilty of "treason", "in Saddam's pay", and being "Saddam's little helper" caused him [the judge] to conclude that "the newspaper was not neutral but both embraced the allegations with relish and fervour and went on to embellish them"; additionally, the judge ruled, Galloway had not been given a fair or reasonable opportunity to make inquiries or meaningful comment upon the documents before they were published.
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". 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 libel 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 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. It emerged that these documents had first been offered to The Daily Telegraph, but they had rejected them. The documents' origin remains unknown.
In January 2004, a further set of allegations were made in Al-Mada, 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:
|“||It is hard to see what is dishonourable, let alone "illicit", about Arab nationalist businessmen donating some of the profits they made from legitimate UN-controlled business with Iraq to anti-sanctions campaigns, as opposed to, say, keeping their profits for themselves.||”|
In May 2005, a US Senate committee report 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 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."
Senate hearing (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).
On arriving in the US, he told Reuters, "I have no expectation of justice from a group of Christian fundamentalist and Zionist activists." 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.
In his testimony, Galloway made the following statements in response to the allegations against him:
|“||Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader — and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one — and neither has anyone on my behalf. Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever having written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever, and you call that justice.||”|
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 British television presenter Anne Robinson said Galloway "quite frankly put the pride back in British politics" when introducing him for a prime time talk show. 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".
Senate report (October 2005)
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 "knowingly made false or misleading statements under oath". 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.
It also asserts that Galloway (and the Mariam Appeal) received 8 allocations of oil from the Iraqi government amounting to 23 million barrels from 1999 to 2003. The Mariam Appeal was also found to have improperly received $446,000 via the Oil-for-Food programme. Tariq Aziz was said to have told the investigators that oil had been allocated in the names of 2 of Galloway's representatives, Buhan Al-Chalabi and Fawaz Zureikat. Aziz had told the investigators: "These oil allocations were for the benefit of George Galloway and for Mariam's Appeal. The proceeds from the sale benefited the cause and Mr Galloway."
Galloway reiterated his denial of the charges and challenged the US Senate committee to charge him with perjury. CNN's website reported him as saying: "I'm demanding to be prosecuted. I'm begging to be prosecuted for perjury." He claimed Coleman's motive was revenge over the embarrassment of his appearance before the committee in May.
Galloway also said claims Aziz had told investigators he had benefited financially, via Zureikat, from the Oil for Food programme had been rejected by Aziz, via his French lawyers. A contemporary UN-supported report written by Paul Volcker, the former American Federal Reserve chairman, asserted that 11 million barrels of oil had been reserved in Galloway's name. For Volcker's report, Aziz was interviewed, but his account on this occasion differed from the one he had given the senate, a change they considered unconvincing.
Before and after the 2005 general election
Foundation of Respect
After he had been expelled from the Labour Party, Galloway speculated at the end of October 2003: "If I were to resign the constituency and there was a by-election, I can’t guarantee that I would win, but I would guarantee that Tony Blair’s candidate would surely lose". Galloway finally announced in December that he would not force a by-election and did not intend to contest the next general election in Glasgow. Galloway's Glasgow Kelvin seat was to be split between three constituencies for the next general election. In one of these, the new Glasgow Central constituency, Mohammad Sarwar, the first Muslim Labour MP, wanted to be selected as the candidate. Galloway chose not to challenge him, announcing this decision at the end of May 2004 in his Mail on Sunday column.
Galloway wrote in an article for 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." 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. In the opinion of Nick Cohen of The Observer it was an "alliance... between the Trotskyist far left and the Islamic far right." Or, as Christopher Hitchens, expressed it, "The servants of the one god finally meet the votaries of the one-party state".
After the 2004 European Parliamentary election results became known, in which Galloway stood in London, but failed to gain a seat, he announced that he would stand in East London at the next general election. On 2 December, he confirmed that he was aiming to be nominated as the Respect candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow.
The ensuing electoral campaign in the seat proved to be a difficult one with heated exchanges between Galloway, Oona King (the Labour member for Bethnal Green and Bow in the previous parliament), and their respective supporters. Galloway and Respect threatened to sue King, whose mother is Jewish, if she repeated her assertion in the Evening Standard on 10 April 2005 which reported her as saying: "I have been told by several people that members of Respect have told" Muslim voters "not to vote for me because I am Jewish".
Galloway was asked at a hustings early in the campaign why he was standing against one of only 2 black female MPs to which he replied that King had "voted to kill a lot of women in the last few years. Many of them had much darker skins than her". Claiming to be the ghost of Old Labour, Galloway told Sunday Times contributor A. A. Gill that "we’re here to haunt new Labour". Bethnal Green and Bow is "where Labour was founded. We’re giving birth to the Labour party all over again".
Galloway said at a hustings event that the Labour government had been pursuing a "war on Muslims" while King said her stance against Saddam Hussein had been "principled". Galloway received death threats from an offshoot of al-Muhajiroun (a banned extreme Islamist group). On 19 April, about 30 men forced Galloway's meeting with a tenants’ association to be abandoned after claiming he was a "false prophet" for encouraging Muslims to vote. Galloway was held by the group for about 20 minutes before the police arrived at the scene. All the major candidates united in condemning the threats and violence. Both the Labour and Respect candidates were given police protection.
On 5 May, Galloway gained the seat by 823 votes and denounced the returning officer for alleged discrepancies in the electoral process. After the election result became known, Galloway's spokesman, Ron McKay, rejected claims that King had been racially abused during the campaign and said it was King who had brought up her Jewish background.
Result and subsequent developments
During the BBC's election night coverage, Jeremy Paxman asked Galloway about whether he was happy to have removed one of the few black women in Parliament, He 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".
Oona King later told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that she found Paxman's line of questioning inappropriate. Galloway "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".
It emerged in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme in 2010 that the Islamic Forum of Europe, which advocates sharia law, had been involved in campaigning for Galloway in the Bethnal Green constituency. In a secretly recorded speech at a dinner shortly after his election, Galloway said that the involvement of the IFE had played "the decisive role" in his win. Although the IFE itself denied the accusation, Galloway admitted in a statement that the allegation was true.
Celebrity Big Brother
In January 2006, Galloway appeared on the fourth series of the reality show for nearly three weeks. 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. He wrote later that his activities "were actually the same stunts that BBC presenters and celebs get up for Children in Need".
Galloway faced a claim at the time from Hilary Armstrong, then Labour's Chief Whip, that he should "respect his constituents, not his ego". Ron McKay, his spokesman and friend, said of the imaginary milk incident: "I rather wish he hadn't been given that particularly silly task". It had been assumed, McKay said, that Galloway's comments about politics would not be cut. Just after his eviction, Galloway told presenter Davina McCall he was positive about having taken part, although when asked if he was "glad" to have participated, he said: "Not after I've seen those press cuttings."
Galloway told The Independent on Sunday in February 2009 that there were "three reasons" for appearing on Celebrity Big Brother. "One was to raise a substantial amount of money for the refugees in Gaza. Then to use my fee to employ extra staff in my constituency office, which I have done. And to reach a wider audience in Britain with the approach we take to things" of which "all three goals were achieved". Galloway was more specific in a column for The Independent newspaper in November 2012 writing that his "antics on Big Brother" had "raised tens of thousands of pounds for the" Interpal charity and paid for an "extra caseworker in my constituency".
Other parliamentary and political developments (2003–11)
Parliamentary participation statistics (2003–09)
As his connection with the Labour Party was ending, 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.
His participation rate continued to remain low following the 2005 election, and at the end of that year he had participated in only 15% of Divisions in the new parliament, 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 the other 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.[better source needed]
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. "In the British Parliament you cannot register an abstention", Galloway told Christopher Sylvester in 2012. "The only two propositions generally on offer are the Prime Minister’s motion and the Leader of the Opposition’s amendment. In the last Parliament I seldom wished to vote for either, but that does not mean I was not in Parliament. In fact, I was there more than almost anyone else because my constituency was right next door".
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 Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, in an addendum to the report, 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 him.
|“||I have not found evidence that Mr Galloway has, directly and personally, unlawfully received moneys from the former Iraqi regime. I have been given evidence by Dr Al-Chalabi of a payment by him of $120,000 to Mr Galloway's former wife, Dr Abu-Zayyad, which derived from a commission payment Dr Al-Chalabi received under the programme. As I do not have access to the bank accounts in question, I do not know whether Mr Galloway benefited in any way from this payment. Nor do I know whether Mr Galloway benefited from a payment of $150,000 to Dr Abu-Zayyad which the US Senate Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations found to have been made by Mr Fawaz Zureikat out of oil contract commission.||”|
But the Committee concluded, in the main body of the report:
|“||we agree with the Commissioner that there is strong circumstantial evidence that the Oil for Food Programme was used by the Iraqi government, with Mr Galloway's connivance, to fund the campaigning activities of the Mariam Appeal.||”|
It found that Galloway's use of parliamentary resources to support his work on the Mariam Appeal "went beyond what was reasonable."
|“||Mr Galloway's conduct ... and his calling into question of the Commissioner's and our own integrity have in our view damaged the reputation of the House. In accordance with precedent, we recommend that he apologise to the House, and be suspended from its service for a period of eighteen actual sitting days.||”|
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.
Candidate in other elections (2007–11)
On 10 August 2007, Galloway confirmed that he would stand at the next election in newly created constituency of Poplar and Limehouse where the Labour Party had a notional majority of 3,942. The Labour candidate was the current Poplar and Canning Town MP Jim Fitzpatrick. Galloway said he had planned to stand down from Parliament, but was prompted to stand in the neighbouring east London constituency as he felt he was unfairly suspended from Parliament in 2007. At the 2010 general election Galloway was defeated, coming third after the Labour and Conservative candidates. He received 8,160 votes.
Galloway headed the post-split Respect (London-wide) top-up list for the London Assembly election, 2008 but was not selected. 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.
Israel and Palestine (2005–11)
In an interview with the American radio host Alex Jones in September 2005, Galloway 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."
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". In Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England, Anthony Julius cites this interview as one example of Galloway pandering to the antisemitic prejudices of his audience. According to Julius, Galloway merely refers to the "right wing press" in the British media, whereas he has the habit of adding the word "Zionist" when speaking on television in the Arab world. A few years later, in a May 2009 speech given at a meeting in Westminster, Galloway 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".
At a 22 July 2006 demonstration (and later in a Socialist Worker op-ed), Galloway stated that "Hizbollah has never been a terrorist organisation". In 2009, Galloway received a Palestinian passport from Hamas leader Ismail Haniya. Hamas is designated as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the European Union, and the US.
During the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, also known as Operation Cast Lead, Galloway commented in his speech at an event in Trafalgar Square on 3 January 2009: "Today, the Palestinian people in Gaza are the new Warsaw Ghetto, and those who are murdering them are the equivalent of those who murdered the Jews in Warsaw in 1943". Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian thought "the effect of repeating, again and again, that Israel is a Nazi state" was, potentially, an incitement to attack Jews because the comparison with Nazis as "the embodiment of evil" implies that "the only appropriate response is hate". Sigrid Rausing in the New Statesman wrote: "The claim of moral equivalence is dangerous, not because it exaggerates the horror of Gaza (the reality of that bombardment was probably worse than we can really imagine), but because it minimises the horror of the Holocaust."
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. Galloway later commented that he considered the issue resolved.
Galloway was committed to a lecture tour of North America in March 2009, 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. On 20 March 2009, Galloway was advised by the Canada Border Services Agency that he was deemed inadmissible to Canada on "security grounds" owing to his involvement in the Viva Palestina aid convoy to the Gaza Strip following the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict.
The Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas, which is on Canada's list of terrorist organisations, while the assessment of Galloway resulted from his personal donation of £25,000 to Hamas made 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.
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. On 30 March 2009, the Federal Court of Canada upheld the decision of the Canada Border Services Agency. 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." Subsequently, Galloway cancelled his Canadian tour and instead, delivered his speech over video link from New York to his Canadian audiences.
Finally allowed to enter Canada in early October 2010 after a judge concluded that the original ban had been politically motivated, Galloway criticised Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, saying that the minister had "damaged Canada's reputation" and had used anti-terrorism as a means of suppressing political debate. According to Galloway: "There are crazy people in the world who — if I really was, really were the person Jason Kenney painted me as — might have thought themselves fully justified in putting a bullet in me".
Viva Palestina aid convoys
In response to the 2008–09 Israel–Gaza conflict Galloway instigated the Viva Palestina aid convoy to the Gaza Strip in January 2009. By mid-February, the organisation claimed to have raised over £1 million for humanitarian aid in four weeks, although the Charity Commission later found the true figure to be £180,000. On 14 February 2009, 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.
The convoy arrived in Gaza on 9 March, 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 to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.
On 8 April 2009, Galloway joined Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic to launch Viva Palestina US. 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 placed on a plane bound for London.
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."
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. It was taken over by the Charity Commission in October 2014 who appointed an accountant to oversee the group because of the concerns over its financial management.
Support for the Iranian government
Galloway has worked for the Iranian state-run satellite television channel, Press TV since 2008. During an event at the London School of Economics in March 2011, he said: "Because I don’t believe that the government of Iran is a dictatorship I have no problem about working for Press TV in London which is a British owned television station. I’m not responsible for the government of Ahmedinijad. I’m not responsible for the leadership of Press TV". Galloway also said: "There are many things wrong with Iran. One thing they do have is elections. They elected a president that you or I might not have voted for but I am in no doubt that Ahmadinejad won the presidential election" held in 2009. (See Presenter for RT and Press TV, among others below.)
Galloway asserted on The Wright Stuff chat show (13 March 2008) that the executed boyfriend of gay Iranian asylum seeker Mehdi Kazemi was executed for "sex crimes" rather than for being gay. 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.
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." Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, writing in The Guardian on 26 March, wrote that Galloway's "passionate opposition to a war against Iran, which I share, seems to have clouded his judgement" and "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". Galloway has supported equality legislation in the UK (see Record on LGBT issues (1994–2013) below).
In August 2010, on his Press TV programme The Real Deal, Galloway interviewed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, following Galloway's participation in a conference for expatriate Iranians whose expenses were paid by Iran's government. Concerning the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman convicted of adultery and sentenced to stoning, which he described as "the so-called stoning case". Galloway said of Ashtiani's sentence during the interview: "Every so often an issue comes along which is seized upon by the enemies of Iran and it becomes a heavy problem and magnified...".
According to Martin Fletcher in The Times, Ahmadinejad gave "mendacious answers" which "went unchallenged by his obsequious interlocutor". Galloway told Ahmadinejad: "I have police protection in London from the Iranian opposition because of my support for your election campaign" in 2009. "I mention this so you know where I'm coming from."
Political career since 2012
Wins 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." His 36% swing, defeating the Labour candidate Imran Hussain, was among the largest in modern British political history. Jeremy Corbyn, then a backbench Labour MP, congratulated him in a tweet.
Andrew Gilligan noted in The Daily Telegraph that Galloway had won in wards with a predominantly white electorate as well as those with a majority Muslim population, while Tim Congdon thought it was an explicit vote against Labour. Nick Robinson. the BBC's Political Editor, believed it was "a one-off political coup by a political one-off" in a seat which has not followed national trends in the past.
Galloway described the result as a "Bradford spring" (after the Arab Spring) and said that it showed the "total rejection" by voters of the three leading political parties, whom he had termed "the three cheeks of the same backside". In his opinion, Respect is "real Labour". The novelist Howard Jacobson in The Independent wrote that Galloway's "campaign shamelessly courted Muslim prejudice in smaller matters such as alcohol – where Galloway painted himself as more Muslim than the Muslim Labour candidate whom he accused of liking, shock horror, a tipple." Patrick Cockburn in The Independent on Sunday commented: "It says something about the comatose nature of British politics that an effective critic of ... failed wars like Mr Galloway, who beats an established party, should be instantly savaged as a self-serving demagogue."
Galloway told Decca Aitkenhead in mid-April 2012 for a Guardian profile that winning the by-election "in the way that we did, with the landslide that we did, was definitely the best day of my life". Previously the best day had been the American Senate hearing in May 2005. 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."
Julian Assange comments (August 2012)
Galloway was criticised for comments he made in August 2012 on the legal case involving 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." Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden over the sexual assault of two women, an accusation he rejects.
Galloway continued by stating: "But 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." 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. 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.
According to British barrister Felicity Gerry, Galloway's description of rape is not correct under English law. Galloway's comments were criticised by anti-rape campaigners as "ignorant", "very unhelpful", "offensive" and "deeply concerning."
Respect leader Salma Yaqoob described Galloway's comments as "deeply disappointing and wrong." She subsequently resigned from her post and the party. 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."
Galloway was 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." He subsequently lost his job as a columnist for Holyrood, a Scottish political magazine, for refusing to apologise for his remarks.
Israel and Zionism (2012–present)
Abruptly leaves meeting in Oxford, February 2013
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, was on the topic "Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank". His opponent in the debate was Eylon Aslan-Levy. While Levy was speaking, Galloway interrupted him, asking "Are you an Israeli?" When Aslan-Levy, a third-year PPE student at Brasenose College acknowledged this (he is of joint British-Israeli nationality), 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:
|“||The reason is simple: no recognition, no normalisation. Just boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the apartheid state is defeated. I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media. If they want to speak about Palestine – the address is the PLO.||”|
Aslan-Levy was quoted in The Jewish Chronicle as saying: "Galloway refused to share a platform with me for no reason other than my nationality: not because of anything I had done or said, but because of the passport I hold. One of the grounds for discrimination, as defined in the Race Relations Act, is nationality". Aslan-Levy later told the Daily Mail "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." 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." Joan Smith wrote: "It was a typical Galloway performance, characterising himself as the victim of what was actually very bad manners on his part". 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 [sic] because she or he happens to be Israeli or because they express certain views."
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."
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."
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. The Times editorial on 22 February commented: "The truth is that Mr Galloway’s abrupt departure was the childish act of an attention-seeker. He has become a circus sideshow: roll up, roll up to be entertained by his next piece of eccentric unreason".
In a debate at The Oxford Union the following October, he was asked if he was a racist. Referring indirectly to his encounter with Aslan-Levy, Galloway said that he had worked undercover for the African National Congress during the apartheid era in South Africa, and stayed exclusively with its Jewish activists. He compared the support of debating Israeli Zionists with that of supporting South African apartheid. "By identifying them as Jews, rather than by their chosen atheist ideology, Galloway makes it clear that the attempt by Jews to shed their Jewish skin and join the global brotherhood of the workers failed", according to Marc Goldberg, writing for The Times of Israel of Galloway's comments at this meeting. He was "holding them up as examples of good Jews that other Jews should emulate, not as anti-apartheid campaigners that everyone should emulate".
Speech in Leeds, August 2014
|“||We have declared Bradford an Israel-free zone. We don't want any Israeli goods, we don't want any Israeli services, we don't want any Israeli academics coming to the university or the college, we don't even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford even if any of them had thought of doing so. We reject this illegal, barbarous, savage state that calls itself Israel. And you have to do the same."||”|
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, said that while "Israel-free zone" was a "nice sound bite", any such boycott would have to be implemented at the national level. However, Ward added 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."
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." Jonathan Arkush, then 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".
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. In an interview, Taub commented that his visit was proof that "the people of Bradford [have] sent a clear message that George Galloway does not represent them." 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." Galloway accused the councillors who had invited the ambassador of fraternising with a "mouthpiece for murder".
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). 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.
Galloway subsequently criticised 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." Galloway claimed that the complaints against him were made "by people who apparently find it excusable to incinerate innocent children and babies."
In October 2014 it emerged that Galloway would not be prosecuted for his comments on the grounds of "insufficient evidence", although West Yorkshire Police had "recorded this matter as a hate incident."
Also on 13 October 2014, Galloway abstained from a vote in the House of Commons formally recognising Palestine because the motion included the recognition of Israel as well. In a statement released on the Respect website, he advocated a one-state solution.
Before and after the 2015 general election
Accusations of antisemitism
On 5 February 2015, Galloway appeared on an edition of the BBC's Question Time discussion programme which was recorded in Finchley, London, the area with the largest Jewish community in the UK. Galloway's appearance on this edition of the programme was the subject of much media coverage at the time. Part of the debate focused on antisemitism and Galloway strongly objected to the insinuation that he is an antisemite. Five days later, Hadley Freeman, a columnist for The Guardian, tweeted: "Galloway has said and done things that cross the line from anti-Israel to antisemitic".
Galloway warned Freeman of a suit for defamation if her tweet were not deleted, but reverted to his earlier posture after she did so. Some Twitter account holders who had re-tweeted Freeman's comment were then sent a letter from Chambers Solicitors acting for Galloway asking for an apology and £5,000 plus Value Added Tax (then levied at 20%) to cover costs incurred by the letter and were threatened with potential litigation if the recipients did not pay the money into a HSBC bank account. The Solicitors Regulation Authority, which looks into professional malpractice were aware of the issue by early March 2015.
Eric Heinze, Professor of Law at Queen Mary University of London, noted that an editor of the Media Lens website had sent a tweet to Freeman asking if she could provide evidence for her claim that Galloway is antisemitic. Heinze wrote that "any example she could cite would probably persuade some and not others. Even if an overwhelming majority were unpersuaded, a highly popular opinion does not create an objectively verifiable fact." Chambers Solicitors' conduct was the subject of a warning from the SRA a year later. Initiating a libel action must begin within a year and no formal writ was issued.
Clashes with Labour's parliamentary candidate
During a husting meeting in Galloway's Bradford West constituency on 8 April during the 2015 general election heated exchanges occurred between Galloway and the Labour candidate, Naz Shah. Galloway accused her of lying about her forced marriage which had been the subject of an open letter written by Shah and released to the media after her selection as a candidate. He said of Shah:
|“||You have only a passing acquaintance with the truth. You claimed – and gullible journalists believed you – that you were subject to a forced marriage at the age of 15. But you were not 15, you were 16 and a half. I have your nikah [Muslim marriage certificate] in my pocket.||”|
Shah rejected his claim: "What has my nikah got to do with Bradford West? What have your four marriages got to do with Bradford West?"
Shah alleged at the event that Galloway's representative in Pakistan impersonated her deceased father in order to acquire the nikah. Ron McKay, Galloway's spokesman, has asserted that there was no dishonesty in gaining access to the document via an intermediary in Pakistan. Labour supplied media outlets with a copy of Shah's nikah which confirms that she was 15 at the time of her forced marriage. By her own account, Shah was raped during the marriage, but in an email to Helen Pidd, The Guardian's Northern Editor, McKay disputed whether it had been a forced marriage at all. Labour accused Galloway of breaking election law by making false claims about Shah, while both reported the other to the Director of Public Prosecutions over the affair.
Galloway accused Shah of favouring Israel. At one point during the campaign, Galloway tweeted a picture of Israelis waving Israeli flags with the caption "Thank you for electing Naz Shah". The image was juxtaposed with another, showing Palestinians celebrating his own supposedly imminent victory. Shah said she has participated in marches supporting the Palestinian cause.
Defeat in Bradford West
During polling day, it emerged that Galloway had been reported to the police by the acting returning officer in Bradford West for publishing, via a retweet, an exit poll in the constituency, an illegal action under the Representation of the People Act, 1983. A properly reported exit poll inaccurately suggested Galloway had retained the seat.
Galloway, however, was defeated in this election. Naz Shah gained a majority over him of 11,420 votes, reversing the 10,000 majority he had gained at the byelection. Galloway commented in his speech, as the defeated second candidate, that he did not resent Labour supporters' "moment of celebration", continuing by saying that "there will be others who are already celebrating: the venal, the vile, the racists and the Zionists will all be celebrating. ... I’m not in my grave. As a matter of fact I’m going off now to plan my next campaign."
On 10 May, Galloway said that he intended to legally challenge the result, claiming to have uncovered postal voting fraud. However, the three-week window in which Galloway could petition against the result expired on 29 May without a legal challenge being made.
Allegations of Aisha Ali Khan
Around 19 May 2015, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) passed allegations of the misappropriation of public funds by Galloway to the Metropolitan Police after a complaint from Aisha Ali Khan. Ali Khan served as Galloway's parliamentary assistant for 6 months in 2012. According to her account, and her litigation solicitor's analysis of documents, she spent 75% of her time working on non-parliamentary activities for Galloway, including the purchase of his underwear, preparations for his wedding, and assisting the Viva Palestina charity.
A complaint to the IPSA from the former Conservative MP Louise Mensch, which supports Ali Khan's case against Galloway, forms part of the same investigation. Galloway has said the accusations are false, a "pack of lies", and has complained of a "New York-Tel Aviv axis of evil" working against him as Mensch now lives in New York and Ali Khan's solicitors have an office in Israel. Ali Khan's libel case against Galloway over his claim that she had pursued a "dirty tricks" campaign against him and the Respect Party and had slept at his house with her (now former) husband was heard in the High Court on 20 June 2016. His counsel apologised on Galloway's behalf, and accepted that he had made "defamatory accusations". Ali Khan will receive a "five-figure sum" in damages and her legal costs. The police are believed to have decided against any action against Galloway.
In July 2014, Ali Khan was given a 12-month conditional discharge after being convicted of encouraging her partner, a detective inspector, to illegally access emails. This occurred while she was employed by Galloway, but the judge at the hearing said there was nothing in the case "which casts aspersions of any nature on Mr Galloway".
London Mayoral campaign (2015–16)
During his unsuccessful 2015 general election campaign to retain Bradford West, Galloway announced that he would stand in the election for London Mayor in 2016 if he lost his seat, an intention he confirmed with a formal announcement, via his Twitter account, on 28 May.
Dave Hill, writing for The Guardian in November 2015, accused Galloway of making "cutting personal attacks" about the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan, a Muslim who Galloway believes inadequately practices the faith. Robert Colville in an early January 2016 article for The Spectator wrote that the Respect Party now "barely exists" at all and commented that "Galloway’s mayoral campaign is, thus far, equally underpowered. His crowdfunding site has raised £3,140 of its £100,000 target." In the final result, Galloway came seventh with 37,007 (1.4%) first preference votes. After second preference were accounted for, Sadiq Khan became London mayor.
Other developments (2015–present)
During the successful leadership campaign of Jeremy Corbyn in July 2015, Galloway said he would become a Labour Party member "pretty damn quick" if Corbyn was elected as Labour leader. The two men are long-standing allies. Less than a week after Corbyn became leader, a Labour spokeswoman told The Times: "George Galloway has not applied to rejoin the Labour party and he will not be receiving an invitation." By late September, Galloway was calling on the party to "rescind my unjust expulsion".
Ken Livingstone, in November 2015, called for Galloway to be allowed back into the party if "he's prepared to abide by our rules". Apart from Livingstone, other Labour politicians, such as Jess Phillips and Dawn Butler were strongly opposed to Galloway's re-admission. Corbyn himself said in July 2015 during an interview with New Statesman editor Jason Cowley that he was disgusted at Galloway's treatment of Naz Shah during the general election a few months earlier. Corbyn told Paul Waugh in December 2015 that Galloway's potential readmission to the party is a decision which is not within his powers.
Following much criticised comments by Livingstone in late April 2016 concerning Adolf Hitler and Zionism, Galloway supported Livingstone's argument. Galloway disputed that Livingstone's comments were antisemitic, claiming the responses to Livingstone's comments by Labour MPs Sadiq Khan and John Mann were part of a "slow motion coup" to destabilise the Labour Party and oust Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. "The Israel lobby has just destroyed the Labour Party", he tweeted in Spring 2016. "It is an amazing achievement". The Respect Party "voluntarily deregistered" from the Electoral Commission on 18 August 2016.
It emerged in January 2017 that Galloway's reimbursed expense claim for the rent of his constituency office in Bradford West has been forwarded by the IPSA to the Metropolitan Police who are at the early assessment stage. Galloway told The Times he was previously unaware of these developments and said it "is yet another waste of police time and resources" after the earlier claim led to no action being taken.
Galloway announced on 21 March 2017 that he is standing as an independent in the forthcoming Manchester Gorton by-election, one of Labour's safest seats at the 2015 general election. In a statement, published by the Westmonster website, Galloway objected to Labour's "all-Asian shortlist", viewing it as an "insult" to the l.ocal community and because it excluded supporters of Corbyn; the constituency's population is 29% Asian, predominantly of Pakistani descent. Nearly a fortnight earlier, he was reported as intending to stand if Labour did not select an Asian candidate.
Other domestic and international issues
Galloway advocates greater spending on welfare benefits, and some nationalisation of large industries. By 2003, he was not in favour of command economies and thinking some enterprises, such as restaurants, are better run privately. Galloway told Decca Aitkenhead in 2012 that his "main political mistake, in retrospect, was ... state ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, in which I believed, and for which I campaigned, [which] was a false God". Galloway supported Respect's pro-choice stance on abortion. He has been an advocate for the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez and, in his Fidel Castro Handbook, for the former Cuban leader. "You were the greatest man I ever met Comandante Fidel", he tweeted when Castro died in November 2016.
Scotland and the UK
Galloway has long supported devolution for Scotland, but opposes Scottish independence. In the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum, held on 18 September 2014, Galloway was dismissive of the official Better Together campaign because it also involved Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and he believed its leader, Alistair Darling, to be ineffective. "My case isn’t that Scotland couldn’t be independent, but shouldn’t. I don’t believe the country would become impoverished like a Burundi or Bangladesh. That’s the main point that distances me from the depressing lash-up that is the blue-rinsed Better Together", The Sunday Times quoted him as saying.
Galloway's argument against independence was based on a defence of "class" over "nationality". He told Serena Kutchinsky in an interview for Prospect magazine: "If we lose this vote the possibility of a real Labour government, or any kind of Labour government, in the rest of UK will be gone". He has argued in favour of greater Scottish devolution, and advocated the (rejected) "devo-max" option being included on the referendum's ballot papers.
In 2013, Galloway began a series of public meetings in Scotland using the slogan of "Just Say Naw." After attending a meeting at Portobello Town Hall, Edinburgh in August 2014, at which Galloway said the campaign was "all about Salmond. One person’s ego and ambition", Gerry Hassan accused Galloway of having made "a plethora of inaccurate comments". 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.
Support for Bashar al-Assad's government
Galloway expressed support for the Syrian presence in Lebanon five months before it ended, telling the Lebanese Daily Star in August 2008: "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. When Syria did withdraw from Lebanon, Galloway objected and said the neighbouring states presence had been entirely "legal"; Christopher Hitchens, citing the Taif Accords of 1989, disputed his comment.
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," and a "breath of fresh air," In the speech, he said Syria would be "framed" for the February 2005 Assassination of Rafic Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, in reports assembled by the UN's Special Tribunal for Lebanon and accused the UN investigator Detlev Mehlis of pre-determining his conclusions. The first UN report did implicate Syria in Hariri's death.
In an interview with the Hizbullah run Al-Manar TV, which aired on 26 July 2011 (as translated by MEMRI), Galloway rejected accusations that Syria or Hezbollah were responsible for the assassination of Hariri, and asserted Israel was responsible for the death of Rafic Hariri. According to him: "When this inquiry [the Special Tribunal for Lebanon] refused to lead in that direction, I knew it was a fake inquiry".
Galloway again praised the government of Assad in a leaked 2010 email to Assad's advisor Bouthaina Shaaban when asking for help in a Viva Palestrina convoy and reminded her of previous help from the Syrian government for the campaign. In the correspondence, leaked by the Anonymous hacking group, she responded: "God bless your amazing efforts and I will be honoured to be part and parcel of it". "I knew that I could rely on you and the last Arab country in this historic endeavour", he wrote in response.
Galloway said in a July 2011 interview on Hezbollah's Al-Manar station: "Bashar Assad wants reform and change, to realize the aspirations of his people". In the early stages of the Civil War (when Assad was reported as "perpetrating massacres of his own people"), opponents were "trying to pressure Syria and President Assad because of the good things that he did, such as supporting Palestinian and Lebanese resistance and rejecting to surrender to Israel".
Syrian civil war (2011–present)
A month later, in an August 2011 piece for the Al Jazeera website, Galloway wrote he "was never close to the Syrian regime" and acknowledged its "authoritarian character, its police state mentality", and the "rampant" corruption "much of it concentrated around his [Assad's] own family". The description of "the mass uprising" by some "as the actions of "terrorists" and "gunmen" is a gross distortion". He concluded: "Unless the Syrian regime can conclude an urgent agreement to proceed to elections, a free media, legal political opposition and an end to what has now become a massacre, the state is going to be invaded or is going to collapse under the weight of the bloodshed". "Few statements could be more insulting to a Syrian citizen", wrote Odai Alzoubi for openDemocracy of the article which was published "after the attacks on Hama, Dier-Alzour, Deraa and Latakia".
In November 2012, on the Lebanese TV station Al-Mayadeen, Galloway said: "I am not with the Syrian regime. I am against their enemies because their enemies are worse than them". In the same appearance he called for jihad in other Arab countries: "It is just strange to me that they are ready to kill thousands, maybe tens of thousands, in Syria but they will not lift a finger for jihad in other Arab countries which are, and have always been, on the path of treason towards the Palestinian people." Galloway's spokesman, Ron McKay, when asked by a reporter from The Daily Telegraph, said that jihad could mean anything "from peaceful protest to armed insurrection." "I fully support the Syrian revolution", Galloway told Christopher Sylvester around the same time. "I want to see the end of all the dictatorships in the Middle East and I hope that it can be achieved peacefully. But if peaceful change is not possible, then violent change is inevitable. I wholly support the Syrian people’s demands for democratic government. I just don’t support armed intervention in Syria, any more than I supported it in any other country in the region".
Following the Ghouta chemical attack on 21 August 2013, Galloway speculated on his Press TV show that the responsibility for the atrocity lay with al-Qaeda and the rebels in Syria who had been provided with the weapons by Israel.
During his speech in the House of Commons debate about the crisis in Syria on 29 August 2013, Galloway was asked about this broadcast by the Conservative MP Matthew Offord. In response, he asserted that he had "said no such thing", and was accused of lying. He questioned Syrian responsibility for the Ghouta attack, arguing "not that they are bad enough to do it, everyone knows they're bad enough to do it but is he mad enough to do it" pointing to a UN chemical weapons inspectors in Damascus on the same day.
In a House of Commons debate on 26 September 2014 he opposed military action by western powers against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) insurgency group, which he called a "death cult." To deal with ISIL, he advocated military action from the other regional powers: "Saudi Arabia has 700 war planes – get them to bomb. Turkey is a Nato member – get Turkey to bomb", and similar actions from the Kurds.
Galloway said that: "Russia's objective [in Syria] is to defeat the terrorists. The United States and Britain's main objective, I would argue, is to get rid of President Assad". In his view, the United States and its allies will only consider the anti-ISIL campaign in Syria a success if Bashar al-Assad leaves power in the process. He told Prospect magazine in February 2016: "I support the decision of the Russian government to come to the aid of the government in Syria because whatever faults it [the Syrian government] may have, whatever crimes it has committed, they are considerably fewer than the crimes committed by IS or would be committed by IS were they to come to power".
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. He also voted against a reduction of the homosexual age of consent to 18. He voted in favour of permitting unmarried and gay couples to adopt children.
Critics have claimed that his involvement in the leadership of Respect – which made no explicit mention of gay rights in its 2005 election manifesto – raised questions about his commitment to those issues. 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 LGBT people would be made in all of its manifestos and principal election materials. (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.
On 13 February 2016, Galloway interviewed the UKIP leader Nigel Farage on Sputnik, the show he presents for the Russian RT network. "We're both, as it happens, on the same page, at least on this one", Galloway concluded in reference to their mutual support for the proposal for Britain to leave the European Union in the EU membership referendum.
At a rally at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on 19 February 2016, Galloway endorsed the Grassroots Out campaign which advocates the "Leave" option in the referendum. He was introduced by Nigel Farage as a "special guest" who is "without doubt one of the greatest orators in this country, he is a towering figure on the left of British politics". Labour MP Kate Hoey, who is involved with Grassroots Out, defended Galloway's participation. "George ended up getting a hugely favourable response to what he said", she told The Sunday Times.
However, Galloway's presence at the rally prompted some of those present to leave. The extent of the walkout was disputed. According to Kate Hoey, only about 20 people left and the event was by then running late. Other reports suggested that, from an audience of around 1,500, at least 100 people left. Mainly present at the event were Conservative Party and UKIP supporters.
Publishing 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. The paper's overseas funding, undeclared in the House of Commons register of members' interests, came from the government of Benazir Bhutto but ceased following her second government's loss of power. "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'." The Commons Committee cleared Galloway of any wrongdoing in this matter.
Presenter for RT and Press TV, among others
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. In August 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'".
After Press TV lost its Ofcom licence in 2012, according to Galloway, the Iranian broadcaster owed him £40,000, leading to his company Miranda Media entering compulsory liquidation in 2013 because of unpaid tax. Reportedly, the owed payment amounts to £100,000, although Galloway disputed this in February 2016. Miranda Media, in which income from Galloway's media work was deposited, was established in September 2007 under a month before a law came into force allowing directors to receive loans from their own companies, a facility Galloway used on multiple occasions.
Shortly after its foundation in June 2012, Galloway became a presenter with the Al Mayadeen television station which reportedly has connections with Iran and the Assad government in Syria, and has been accused of supporting the Assad government, a claim Galloway has rejected. In November 2013, Galloway and his wife Gayatri began to present Sputnik for the Russian RT network. He is a regular contributor to RT's other programming.
In an overview of the broadcasting organisations Galloway works for, Tom Rogan in the National Review in April 2014 described him as being "a Western puppet for tyranny’s propagandists". In the register of members' financial interests published at the end of January 2015, Galloway disclosed that he had earned £293,450 from his television broadcasting in the previous year and had received almost £70,000 in travelling expenses and hotel stays.
Galloway has been married four times. From 1979 to 1999, he was married to Elaine Fyffe, with whom he has a daughter, Lucy (born 1983), who herself has four children. The couple separated in 1987, and divorced in 1999.
In 1994, he married his second wife Dr. Amineh Abu-Zayyad, a biologist of Palestinian origin, in an Islamic ceremony; a civil ceremony followed around 2000, after his divorce from Fyffe in 1999. Abu-Zayyad was granted a divorce from Galloway in February 2009, after an estrangement of several years, on the grounds of "unreasonable behaviour"; her petition was not contested. In early May 2005, The Sunday Times reported her claims to have received phone calls from women claiming to have had "romantic links" with him. In an attempt at mitigation, Galloway told her an unidentified intelligence service was involved.
On 31 March 2012, he married his fourth wife, Putri Gayatri Pertiwi, in an Islamic ceremony in Amsterdam, two days after the Bradford West by-election, and four months after his third wife gave birth to their second child. followed by ceremonies in Sumatra and, in September 2012, at the House of Commons. Gayatri (born c. 1984) is an anthropologist, born in the Netherlands of Indonesian descent, who works as a consultant for a Dutch research firm. Their son, Toren Mustaqim, was born in July 2014. The couple's second child (and Galloway's fifth) is due in March 2017.
An article in The Guardian at the time of Galloway's fourth marriage said there was a lack of clarity over his wedding ceremonies and a reputedly unaccounted for divorce from his third wife. Galloway rejected the claim of Rima Husseini, in April 2012, who said the couple were still married under Islamic law.
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."
According to Jemima Khan, writing for the New Statesman in April 2012, Galloway became a Muslim around 2000, but had not advertised this fact. Galloway 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 said his religious beliefs are a "personal matter". Later, the New Statesman pointed to inconsistencies in Galloway's rejection of the claims Jemima Khan had made.
Assault in August 2014
During the evening of 29 August 2014, while posing for photographs with members of the public in Golborne Road, Notting Hill, Galloway was assaulted by Neil Masterson, a convert to Judaism. Masterson, who was wearing a T-shirt with the logo of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) when arrested, shouted references to the Holocaust and referred to Galloway as "a Hitler."
Galloway suffered a bruised rib in addition to severe bruising on his head and face, and was initially thought to have a broken jaw. He was admitted to St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, where he stayed overnight and was discharged early the following morning. The conservative commentator Peter Oborne, writing for The Daily Telegraph of 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".
Masterson, a 39-year-old man, was charged with religiously aggravated assault. At a hearing held on 1 September at Hammersmith magistrates court, the defendant gave a not guilty plea. 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." Masterson was remanded in custody. At Isleworth Crown Court on 15 September Masterson changed his plea, admitting the assault but still denying that it was religiously aggravated. On 11 December 2014, Masterson was sentenced to 16 months in prison for the attack. He was released from prison on 9 September 2015, but soon returned to jail for a month after breaking a restraining order forbidding him from contacting Galloway. Masterson was also fined for harassment.
- The Killing$ of Tony Blair – George Galloway's documentary film released July 2016
- The Mother of All Talk Shows – phone-in programme presented by Galloway on talkSPORT between 2006 and 2010 and Talkradio from 2016
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- I'm Not the Only One (2004)
- Mr Galloway Goes to Washington (2005)
- Fidel Castro Handbook (2006), MQ Publications. ISBN 1-84072-688-1
- Respect: Documents of the Crisis (2008) with Salma Yaqoob and Alan Thornett
- Open Season: The Neil Lennon Story (2011) Miranda Media
- David Morley Gorgeous George: The Life and Adventures of George Galloway, Politico's Publishing, 2007 ISBN 978-1842751855
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to George Galloway.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: George Galloway|
- Official website
- George Galloway Contributor page, The Guardian website
- George Galloway Contributor page, The Independent website
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by George Galloway
- George Galloway at the Internet Movie Database
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Glasgow Hillhead
1987 – 1997
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for Glasgow Kelvin
1997 – 2005
|Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow
2005 – 2010
|Member of Parliament for Bradford West
2012 – 2015
|Party political offices|
|Leader of the Respect Party