George Galloway, Rochdale & Gaza

George Galloway, Rochdale & Gaza
by Pauline Park

Is George Galloway a savior or a scoundrel? On only point is there consensus: George Galloway is a controversial figure and has been his entire checkered career (Brian Wheeler & Jennifer McKiernan, “Who is George Galloway? Latest comeback for a political maverick,” BBC, 3.1.24). Born into a working class family in Dundee in 1954, Galloway fathered six children by four wives.

Here are 10 points about George Galloway worth considering when assessing his long and eventful life in politics:

  1. George Galloway won the Rochdale by-election by an astonishing margin: he won 39.7% on the Workers Party line to independent businessman David Tully’s 21.3%; Conservative Paul Ellison won just 12% while Azhar Ali — whom the Labour Party withdrew support from over alleged anti-Semitic comments — won just 7.7%; Liberal Democrat Iain Donaldson won 7 % and the Reform UK candidate Simon Danczuk finished last with a dismal 6.3%.
  2. George Galloway’s by-election win now gives him the remarkable distinction of having now represented four different constituencies in parliament (Glasgow Hillhead in 1987, Bethnal Green & Bow in 2005, Bradford West in 2012 and now Rochdale in 2024); Winston Churchill is the only other British politician who could make that claim
  3. Galloway was widely criticized in 1994 after visiting Iraq and telling Saddam Hussein, “Sir, I salute your courage, strenghth, your indefatigability” — though he subsequently claimed he was praising the Iraqi people for those qualities. Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party for calling Tony Blair and George W. Bush ‘wolves’ and urging British troops to disobey ‘illegal’ orders in the Iraq War — one of the few prominent British politicians to oppose and condemn the war — but he proved prescient in warning about it. Galloway went on to found the Respect party, defeating Labour MP Oona King in Bethnal Green & Bow in 2005, overturning a majority of 10,000 in the largely Bangladeshi East London constituency.
  4. Galloway has declared that “there are only two sexes” and that it is impossible to change one’s sex or gender, in one interview saying, “I’m not against trans people. I treat them as they want to be treated. But that’s a different thing from saying that I must incant that they are a woman because they are not as a matter of simple science and biology… gender is gender, it’s a physiological fact and no one can switch” (MOATS: Mother of All Talk Shows,  30 August 2020)
  5. Galloway offended and alienated many women and progressives with his outrageous comments about rape. In defending Julian Assange, Galloway declared,”not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion. Some people believe that when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes, and have sex with them and then fall asleep, you’re already in the sex game with them. It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘do you mind if I do it again?” (“George Galloway attacked over Assange ‘rape comments,” BBC, 20 August 2012).
  6. Galloway worked for Russia Today and has publicly declared the March 2022 Bucha massacre a ‘false flag operation.’
  7. Galloway campaigned in Rochdale on a platform that called for the United Kingdom to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  8. Galloway lost his Bradford West seat in 2015 after his sexist attack on Naz Shah accusing the Labour Party member of lying about her age at the time of her forced marriage to an abusive husband (Helen Pidd, “George Galloway accuses Naz Shah of lying about her forced marriage,” Guardian 9 April 2015).
  9. Galloway campaigned on the slogan, The people of Gaza don’t have a vote in this election, you do.” There is no doubt Gaza was the dominant issue in the by-election.
  10. Galloway described Sir Keir Starmer Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as “two cheeks of the same backside and they both got well and truly spanked tonight here in Rochdale” in his victory speech.

Pauline Park did her M.Sc. in European studies at the London School of Economics & Political Science in 1983 and her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1994; she is a member of the Out-FM collective which produces LGBT/queer programming on WBAI-FM in New York. Park witnessed two British general elections — both won in a landslide by the Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher.

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