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George Galloway and Me

January 29, 2014

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Though he no longer lives in Scotland or represents a Scottish seat, George Galloway’s name just keeps popping up in the Scottish independence debate. Well, not popping up as such. In fact he seems determined to buy into the debate, and I have had a bit to say about this elsewhere, so in the interests of full disclosure and transparency I shall set out here the story of George and I, the little bit of history which might, arguably, be influencing my attitude towards him and his interventions. First, however, let’s have a look at his latest episode:

Scottish Independence: ‘American-led Wars Risk’

Now it’s hard to know where to start with this. George wants to warn us of the risk of being dragged into American-led wars as an independent member of NATO. Wow. Where has George been for the last few decades? I seem to remember our being dragged into every single American-led conflict since Grenada, and we only missed out on that one because America neglected to tell us about it. But it wasn’t the Americans who ‘dragged’ us into these conflicts. It was Westminster governments, both Labour and Tory, that decreed our involvement, and they certainly didn’t have to be ‘dragged,’ kicking and screaming, into any of them.

The truth is that successive UK governments have been right up for this sort of thing. The fact that these days they are American-led merely reflects the change in the strategic balance of power since WWII. Before that the UK often led the bouts of foreign adventurism of which British political leaders were, and are, so fond. They have always loved the ‘Great Game.’ An independent Scotland would be required to decide for herself which, if any, such conflicts to become involved in. Or indeed whether to remain a member of NATO at all. These are properly matters for the Scottish people and after a ‘Yes’ vote that is precisely what they will be. At present we have no such choices and are automatically signed up for all of them.

So clearly hypothetical American pressure on us to become involved in any hypothetical future conflict is presently a moot point, but what are the facts? Well, NATO is a defensive alliance. True, it has not always acted that way in recent years, but the Treaty on which it is founded only requires member states to act if another member state is actually attacked. Directly. Recent actions, such as the operation in Afghanistan, not being a result of such a direct attack, are optional for member states. True, there may be some political pressure on members from the US to support their objectives, but surely that cannot be compared to another country having total control of our foreign and defence policies so that they can use our service personnel however they like!

George further implies that Scotland would somehow be obliged to retain Trident, because NATO is ‘a nuclear alliance.’ Well I suppose it is in a way, however it’s worth bearing in mind that currently only three of its members are actually nuclear powers (US, UK, France). The others are mostly signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, so not only do they not have nuclear weapons, they are committed to not acquiring them. It is highly unlikely that England, or anyone else for that matter, would wish Scotland to remain a nuclear power post-independence so we’d likely also sign the NNPT. My personal preference would be for our starting position to be that we are entitled to half of the UK nuclear deterrent (because of our status as two equal Kingdoms), but that we are prepared to bargain that away in bilateral negotiations with England, which would lead to them giving up their nuclear status too, but that’s me. I get no sense that the Scottish SNP government has any intention of driving such a hard bargain in post-Yes negotiations.

So anyway, George and me. In the winter of 1982/83 I was an up-and-coming young student politician, active in NUS, the Labour Party and, more controversially, Militant. George, who was a bit older, was the leader of the Labour Co-ordinating Committee (LCC), the faction which controlled the main Labour student body, the National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS). This made him the most important power-broker in student politics. It was at about this time that the Labour right was making a big push to get Militant supporters expelled from the party. The reason was presumably that Militant was a bit too radical for their delicate sensibilities, but their stated grounds were organisational – that Militant was a ‘party within a party,’ having members who paid membership dues, an internal democratic structure with a central committee, and its own paid full-time workers.

All of the above was in fact true. For Militant and at least half a dozen of the major left factions, including the largest of all, George’s LCC. George himself was, I believe, a full-time employee of the LCC. He certainly held no paid office in either the Labour Party or the NUS at this time, but he dressed very nicely nonetheless. And we’re not talking student chic. We’re talking very nicely tailored suits and hand-made Italian shoes. Obviously these factions were separate because they didn’t agree about everything, but that did not prevent them from working together to achieve policy outcomes on which they did agree. So as you might expect, when the ‘witchhunt’ began, Militant found itself in a bit of a quandary. Should they say, “Hang on, the LCC and several other factions have all those things too,” or should they remain silent in the hope that these other factions would come to the defence of their left-wing comrades?

In the event they chose the latter course, however the silence, from George and his faction in particular, was deafening. He refused to say a word in defence of Militant members, but chose rather to rely on their silence to protect his own extremely vulnerable position.

‘First they came for Militant, but I did not speak out, for I was not Militant,’ eh George?

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

It was then that I formed the opinion that George was a gutless, hypocritical, self-serving careerist. And I told him so, because one day I found myself sharing a lift with him at the QMU (where we were probably both en route to different meetings). He probably doesn’t remember it, although given how quickly the familiar smug, self-satisfied smirk was wiped from his face, he just might.

Since then he has given me no reason to revise my opinion. Not that he hasn’t had the chance. He keeps popping up all over the place. ‘Look at me, I’m with Saddam Hussein! Look at me, I’m with Kim Jong Il! Look at me, I’m with the Gucci Guerilla (as we used to call Gadaffi)! Look at me, I’m with Hugo Chavez, me, me, me!!!’ He was even my MP for a year when I was living in Hillhead in 86/87. Fortunately for me, I left Hillhead shortly before the 1987 election, as I was still a Labour voter in those days but I would have had real trouble voting for George.

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Now it’s a very long time since either of us was in the Labour Party, but here he is popping up again, this time in the Scottish Independence debate, where I have chosen to focus my own energies. And for some reason, despite his willingness to support national liberation struggles just about anywhere else, he doesn’t support the one going on in his own native land. Why not George? Why, amongst all the nations of the world, would we Scots be so uniquely pathetic and hopeless as to be unable to govern our own affairs? Don’t bother referring me to any of the articles you’ve written about it, or the interviews you’ve given on the subject, because they have all had one thing in common – they are all logically and politically incoherent.

George, you chose to go and represent an English constituency. Some of the positions you have taken, presumably pandering to sectional interests in that seat, have been truly objectionable. That aside, you have always at least tried to talk a good left-wing game. You do love to talk. And talk, and talk, and talk. But George, it is your silence that I will always remember!

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4 Comments
  1. Craig Macfarlane permalink

    I agree totally with your opinion of Gorgeous George (I’m sure a name he penned himself) He has nothing to offer Scotland even his opinions are worthless he had the temerity to bring religion into this referendum (in an interview on the Keiser Report on RT) Which is a massive hypocrisy considering he refuses to discuss his own religion (which may or maynot be muslim?) He should crawl back under the stone he came from and try not to be an embarrassment to the country of his birth!

  2. ‘Odd,’ said Arthur, ‘I thought you said it was a democracy.’
    ‘I did,’ said Ford, ‘It is.’
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    ‘It honestly doesn’t occur to them,’ said Ford. ‘They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.’
    ‘You mean they actually VOTE for the lizards?’
    ‘Oh yes,’ said Ford with a shrug, ‘of course.’
    ‘But,’ said Arthur, going for the big one again, ‘why?’
    ‘Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,’ said Ford, ‘the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?’
    Douglas Adams (Mostly Harmless)

  3. A Different Hue permalink

    This man is despicable; he is an egotistical self-serving charlatan whose goal is to line his own pockets. His “Say Naw” tour is his current vehicle; if he were truly committed to the Unionist cause he would have toured as part of Better Together, but no, he wouldn’t be able to turn a profit that way. He is political filth of the highest order.

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