“Trouble is with Galloway is he prefers foreigners to his own.” (sic)
This message from a nationalist on social media is typical of many such missives which come my way. Usually I delete block and move on. This time I resolved definitively to state my position, my stand on nationalism. It will probably serve once and for all, we will see…
I regard nationalism, except in cases of national oppression, as an infantile disorder, a state of false consciousness. It has nothing to do with me. Include me out.
Those nationalists who say they were “let down” or even “betrayed” by my stance on the Scottish referendum and who seek motives “money” or “votes” or most absurd of all “treason” are really barking up the wrong tree, and a few minutes research would show that.
I have opposed the central SNP project of breaking up our small island of English speaking people all of my life. Why should it be any kind of surprise that when the question was finally put in September 2014 my answer should be no?
I feel exactly the same about English or British nationalism by the way. The sight and sound of nationalists standing at the border, all red in the face, shouting Boo at the people on the other side I find not so much repugnant as ridiculous. And the same goes for the beefy UKIPers doing the same at the white cliffs of Dover.
There are many comic opera nationalists in Europe who are equally ridiculous. An independent Cornwall would be a kind of Brigadoon with pasties. The Flemish nationalists who want to break up Belgium, a country I drive across regularly in 30 minutes, because they want to separate from the Catholic Walloons; the Venetians who want a state called after a dessert; the Italian Northern Leagues who want rid of the “Arab”, poor, south of the country… I could go on believe me.
I oppose the break up of democratic Spain too. During the fascist dictatorship all of Spain was oppressed but the national minorities, the Basques and Catalans, specifically so even if there was no shortage of fascist collaborators amongst both. But fascism was defeated forty years ago and Spain is a European democracy better together than broken into pieces. The Basque country and Catalonia are richer than the rest of Spain, particularly the latter. It is no part of my philosophy or my faith to enrich the already richer at the expense of the already poorer.
Some fools say that I support “freedom for Palestine” but not for Scotland. But Scotland already is free, it last exercised its right to self determination just a few months ago. There is no national oppression of the Scots. Ordinary Scottish people are oppressed by the same economic forces as oppress the people of Bradford, Liverpool, Swansea, huge parts of London etc. But that oppression cannot be compared to the Palestinians, indeed that is a repugnant comparison.
But even in Palestine I don’t support separatism as the answer to that oppression. For more than forty years I have struggled for a single Palestinian state, from the Jordan River to the sea, called Israel-Palestine or Palestine-Israel according to your taste where Jews Christians and Muslims live as equal citizens under the law, one man one woman one vote. Like in post-Apartheid South Africa.
Other fools say “you support a united Ireland but not an independent Scotland”. Apart from one clue being in the word “united” and a hatred of “partition” of small islands let me enlarge further.
Ireland was and partially still is an occupied country, held by force for centuries against its will. Its people were subject to specific national oppression, by the Scots as much as the English. Ulster I remind readers was one of the first “colonies” proclaimed by an independent Scotland almost a century before the union with England. When the Irish exercised their right to self determination and voted overwhelmingly for the independence and unity of Ireland their country was drowned in blood and partitioned by brute force.
Scotland was not and is not a colony of England. Scotland and England together colonised much of the world. There are no Black and Tans in Scotland. There were plenty of Scots in the Black and Tans in Ireland.
It is not that I have any affection for existing states – which is what people really mean when they say “country”. I don’t. For me states have outlived their usefulness and are rendered increasingly meaningless in the globalised capitalist world in which we live. I believe in the increasing unity of states and believe that individual states will “wither away”. The unity of the Arab states, the African states, the Latin American states and of course the European states.
Let us look at our own state. We have a monarch which neither I nor anyone else chose and which incidentally Alex Salmond is keener on than most of my constituents in England. We have a minority government, always a minority government: it is just that this one represents a smaller minority than usual. It is elected on a grotesque parody of democracy, a first past the post system which means that only around 200,000 of the tens of millions of votes which will be cast in May will count, that is those who live in the marginal constituencies on which the election will turn.
Whoever is in power is forced by the prevailing orthodoxy to govern in the interest of the few rather than the many. The few call all the shots and the economic system we have is their economic system which works for them but not for the rest.
It is not that Scotland shouldn’t opt out of all that but that it cannot do so. Running a St Andrews flag up on Edinburgh Castle would change nothing in relation to that. Electing a hundred MSPs like me or even Tommy Sheridan would change nothing in relation to that. Even if Scotland were ready to announce itself as a cold water Cuba it would change nothing in relation to that.
Facts are chiels that winna ding as Robert Burns said. An independent Scotland would not could not opt out of the prevailing fix we are in. Even Britain alone cannot though with around twelve times the population it can do more than an independent Scotland could.
But an independent Scotland breaking away from the rest of the island would have seriously weakened any future prospect of real change. It would have left the Tories in power in England in perpetuity. The Tories would have made an economic environment even more heavenly for the few. The currency which according to Alex Salmond we should have shared would have been governed by a Tory England. Scotland, whoever ran it would have had to match cut for cut deregulation for deregulation every free market reform introduced by the Tory England, or die. And thus would have begun the race to the bottom which would have beggared working people on both sides of the border.
So, returning to the title of this article let me deal with the question of “foreigners” and “my own”.
I am a man of faith. I believe in God. I believe like Robert Burns that we are all God’s children, that we are all therefor each others brothers and sisters. And that we are our brothers’ keepers. That is what Jesus said and it is what I believe. Therefor no man or woman is a foreigner to me.
Like Che Guevara I am “capable of trembling with indignation at any injustice visited on any person anywhere”. That is why I am a comrade of his.
Being born on the same piece of rock as me does not make you one of “my own”. If you are Brian Soutar the bible belting bigot, homophobe privateer and union buster then I despise you, whether you were born in my neighbourhood or not. “My own people” are the bus drivers who work for you, are the gay people witch-hunted by you, wherever they were born wherever they live whatever colour they are however they pray.
That is all. That is what I believe. Everything else flows from that.
George Galloway MP
House of Commons
I was a “Bennite” (which became a considerable term of abuse in the 1980s) since the 1960s. I was brought up in a Labour household in which the premiership of Harold Wilson was the sun and in his constellation Mr Benn was the brightest of the many stars clustered around that Labour cabinet. There were so many stars – James Callaghan Roy Jenkins Barbara Castle Tony Crosland Richard Crossman Dennis Healey George Brown – but even in that company, the young, fresh-faced, bursting with ideas Wedgwood-Benn (as he was then known) stood out.
For us he seemed to exemplify the “white-hot heat” of the “technological revolution” – Mr Wilson’s wheeze for disguising his socialist purpose from a hostile media and the “Gnomes of Zurich” who, even then with their financial power had the means of destroying any real Labour government. Mr Benn was brimful of innovative unorthodoxy, and seemed just what the doctor ordered.
From his heroic ( and successful) fight to remain in the Commons upon the death of his father Viscount Stansgate – a Viscountcy which Mr Benn was to be forced to inherit – through to the Hovercraft, Concorde, TSR2, nuclear power, special edition postage stamps, tape-recording (we’d scarcely heard of it) his own interviews and speeches, he was every inch the “young Lochinvar”. Dashing, romantic, eloquent, unafraid.
The “technological revolution” cooled, the crucible crumbled but my love for Tony Benn never did which is why his death today at the age of 88 surrounded by his family whom he loved with extraordinary zeal is not just any other passing and has caused, unusually for me, the cancellation of a raft of important engagements.
I first met Tony Benn (as he was by then) at the Labour conference in Blackpool in 1974. I was 20 years old, the Secretary of Dundee West Constituency Labour Party. Whilst I was expressing my hero-worship of him, he told me that I was “the youngest constituency party secretary in Labour Party history”. It made that badge seem much brighter.
We remained in touch throughout the 1970’s as Tony Benn emerged as the most important, most popular socialist – as opposed to mere Labour – figure in Britain in the 20th century. When Mr Wilson and then Mr Callaghan’s governments (1974-79) ran into more and more troubled waters it was Tony Benn who became the parliamentary (and cabinet) focus of the fight for an “alternative economic strategy” being developed by the extra-parliamentary left and the trades unions particularly the engineering unions AUEW and TASS their supervisory section led by the immensely impressive Ken Gill.
On the eve of the Devolution Referendum in 1979 Mr Benn addressed a huge Yes Rally in Dundee’s Caird Hall attended by over one thousand people on a bitter winter’s night and gave a speech – the tape-cassette of which he sent me and which I still have – in which he gave quite simply the greatest speech for the socialist idea I have ever heard, bar none. In the vast cavernous auditorium his rolling cadences, his masterful command of the English language, his (by then) thinly coded attacks on the collapse into financial orthodoxy of his cabinet colleagues, the clarity of his call for the unity of working people on this island whilst supporting Home Rule within it, his unbelievably powerful case for democracy in our economy as well as our institutions (no-one believed in democracy more passionately than Tony Benn) still ring in my ears as I write this. It was a tour de force, even by his standards and no-one who was there will ever forget it.
Many of the words, concepts, imagery he used that night I still use in my own speeches today. Earlier he had posed in my home for pictures with my then baby daughter Lucy, today a mother of four, as he later would with her babies. His kindliness as well as his courage, intelligence, eloquence marking him out as head and shoulders above all of the political class then as now. If you can imagine the kindly old gentleman who sat at the back of the carriage in The Railway Children waving his handkerchief at the children and who came to their aid in their tragedy; that was the kind of man Tony Benn was.
Just before he launched his campaign for the Labour Party’s Deputy Leadership in 1981 Benn called my house. “Thish ish Tony Benn” he told my astonished then wife who thought it was a friend of ours playing a prank. “Oh yeah, right” she said.
He asked me if I would support his campaign. I was a full-time Labour organiser and the Chairman of the Labour Party in Scotland at the time and he knew it might put my job at risk. He promised to look after me should the worst happen and a job at his side if he won.
Without hesitation I supported him and threw myself into the campaign as the Scottish organiser. It proved a bitter and divisive battle, crystalising exisiting divisions within the movement and, when Neil Kinnock and a group of left wing apostates who included Robin Cook backed a “soft-left” rival John Silkin to split the Benn vote created new divisions some of which never healed.
The Labour Party had never seen a mass exercise within its ranks quite like it; and has since taken steps to ensure it never will do again. Thanks to democratic reforms within the party pioneered by Benn himself the choice would be made, not merely by MPs but by the rank and file of the party and the unions then affiliated, enthusiastically, in their millions. Benn chased every vote. Though supposedly handling Scotland I traveled with Benn the length and breadth of the country. If you’d believed the media Benn was then, literally, mad bad and dangerous to know. If you believed the evidence of your own eyes, he was the most exciting and inspiring leader in the land.
I remember one occasion in particular in a motor-way service station near Liverpool. We stopped for tea and toast (Benn rarely actually ate real food), Tony, me and Hugh Wyper the then legendary Scottish union leader and Hugh’s wife. First virtually every person in the station came over to greet him. Then, wearing their aprons and chef’s hats all the kitchen staff did the same (alas there were no camera phones then so each person had to get a time-consuming autograph) then people started coming in from the petrol-station forecourt leaving their vehicles unattended then Tony gave an impromptu speech. It felt like a popular revolution. And maybe it could have been.
At the height of his campaign when he seemed to be about to carry all before him, Benn was struck down by an obscure illness The Guillain – Barre Syndrome which attacked his nervous system, confined him to bed, and left him shaky on his legs for the rest of his life. It seemed suspicious at the time, and it still does now. Especially after what happened to Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and other left wing leaders in Latin America.
For that to sound less fanciful one must recap on what Benn might possibly have done. He might have won the deputy leadership of a Labour Party then regarded as a natural party of government. And quickly thereafter, its leader. He would have pulled Britain out of NATO and from the EEC. He would have scrapped Britain’s vastly expensive, unaffordable and essentially useless nuclear He promised public ownership and workers control of the commanding heights of the British economy. He would have nationalised the banks and many other industries including pharmaceuticals. He would have mounted a profound challenge to the rich and powerful in Britain and beyond, AND he had mass popular support in doing so.
The media hysteria had to be experienced to be believed. Think Scargill, Livingstone, Crow, add it all together and double it. It was that bad. Whole pages in serious newspapers were given over to cod-psychologists making the case that Tony Benn was, literally, insane.
But Benn-mania was taking on Beatles levels in the ranks of Labour. With the whole Labour establishment against him, as well as the whole of the British ruling class and its media echo-chamber, Benn was winning. As we gathered on the eve of the fateful Labour Conference in the Brighton conference centre the buzz was simply electrifying. When the result came and the right-wing candidate Dennis Healy was announced the winner by the hair of an eyebrow – well less than 1% – a result achieved only by the votes of a raft of Labour MPs, traitors who promptly defected to the now-forgotten SDP – the rest of us lost our heads. But Tony kept his, taking his brilliant and beautiful America wife Caroline by the hand and walking to the nearest fish and chip shop on the Brighton sea-front for a rare slap-up.
Kinnock picked up his 30 pieces of silver later and is now an establishment clown (along with his wife) in the House of Lords. The remnants of the SDP (which helped keep Thatcher in power for a decade), now serve in David Cameron’s Tory government.
Benn lost his Bristol seat due to boundary changes in 1983, was re-elected in Chesterfield with the support of the Derbyshire Miners (he was among other things the most whole-hearted of the Miners supporters) before “giving up parliament, to spend more time on politics” and continued to the end to support the socialist alternative to barbarism and war. He died and will forever live as the Honorary President of the Stop the War Coalition, leading the greatest mass movement in British history. He was the greatest leader Labour, and Great Britain, never had.
In Shakespeare’s words “He was a man, take him for all in all; I shall not look upon his likes again”
George Galloway MP
House of Commons
14th March 2014
Bradford councillor Ilyas Karmani, an Imam and therefor bound to tell the truth, has at least been honest in The Guardian report compiled by Helen Pidd the ‘special’ Respect Party correspondent.
“Respect for me was just a vehicle to get elected” he says in the article. “Whether we continue to work with that vehicle is open to review”.
Honest, but breathtaking.
Karmani and the other councillors were all elected just five weeks after my by-election win in the city. None had ever been elected to anything before, none but Karmani was a legend outside his own street.
All were elected with a description on their ballot paper saying thus; The Respect Party (George Galloway). It can scarcely be doubted that they were elected on my coat tails. But that didn’t stop them stabbing me in the back. And almost as soon as the ink was dry on their party membership cards.
On the eve of the appearance in a central London Magistrates Court by my former secretary and her boyfriend, the head of the Muslim Contact Unit at Scotland Yard, a leading figure in the Anti-Terrorism Squad, the Bradford councillors group has struck through the Guardian. It is a diversionary tactic but it will not work.
My former secretary, Aisha Ali Khan, and the boyfriend Detective Inspector Afiz Khan stand accused of sundry offences against the public, and the Respect Party. Justice will take its course.
One thing is for sure, those councillors who have openly connived with the Khans in destabilising the party in Bradford have a lot to answer for.
As a matter of honour of course, people elected under one set of colours who defect to another set, should answer firstly to their electorate. After all, none of them would have won if their “vehicle” hadn’t been Respect. Honour of course will not be served on this occasion. These defectors have stated their intention to continue to sit on the council – and pick up £13.000 per year for doing so – under false pretences.
Let me deal with the attacks all five have made upon me, their words improved, of course, by the Guardian’s Pidd.
“Where’s George?” they ask.
Well, here there and everywhere of course, just like I’ve always been.
One of the councillors is quoted in the Guardian as saying he “reads of my appearances, at the Edinburgh Festival, at Westminster, my Scottish tour….”
Let us disect this attack. Westminster is of course where I am duty bound to “appear”. Such a strange “allegation”, the MP who “appears” at Westminster. As a matter of fact, as the CCCTV proves, I appear at Westminster virtually every weekday. As the Order paper proves I brought more issues before the Westminster parliament in the last year than any other MP. My speeches and parliamentary questions proved to be big media events in the main. Not something you could say about most of my fellow parliamentarians. Why, in my latest one I was fulsomely praised by all sides of the house including the Tory minister for the way I had led the campaign to save the National Media Museum!
The Edinburgh Festival appearances, on a Friday and a Saturday afternoon in August, during the parliamentary reccess were attended by large crowds of interested people. Again, not something likely to be experienced by most of my parliamentary colleagues.
In any case, how could anyone complain about an MP appearing at the Edinburgh Festival speaking about political matters during his summer holidays?
As for the Scottish Tour complained of, well, that hasn’t even happened yet!
I am giving three speeches in Scotland, in Aberdeen, my home town Dundee, and my former parliamentary seat in Glasgow on the subject of the forthcoming Scottish Independence referendum. In those speeches I will be asking my compatriots to vote no in that referendum, not least because of the effect seperating Scotland from England will have on cities like Bradford, doomed to perpetual Tory rule.
The speeches will be held on days and at times I would otherwise be “appearing” in Westminster, not Bradford.
In any case, who can legitimately complain about a political leader speaking in Scotland ahead of a seismicly important referendum, because I “should be in Bradford”? What kind of parochial madness is this? Yet such is the guff carried in
the Guardian today.
I am in Bradford virtually every weekend. Most northern MPs are in their constituencies virtually every weekend (except the likes of Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg etc). Virtually none however can say they conduct a weekly constituency surgery, every Saturday morning and where the constituents are often queueing out the door. But I can.
I have a fully staffed full time constituency office, choked with staff from Bradford, plus interns, plus seconded political professionals, seasoned and trusted. No other constituency in the country has an operation remotely like it.
So, what’s all this really about?
The Khan/Khan of Scotland Yard case is live and so cannot be discussed. Suffice to say that on this, the truth will out. The wheels of justice grind exceeding slow, but they grind exceeding fine.
The proximate cause of this latest brouhaha however is about something much more prosaic. A ticket to contest a council seat in the forthcoming local elections next May.
If I had succumbed to the political blackmail of giving (I am the Respect Party’s Nominating Officer) the nomination for the Manningham Ward in Bradford West to a man these councillors demanded I should, then the Guardian piece would never have been written and neither would this response.
But I refused to do so. The man they wanted is an inconsequential obscurity except in this regard. At the time of my by-election victory he wasn’t even a member of Respect. He did absolutely nothing in my campaign. He waited until we won to join us. Unlike the nominee I did choose, who was, my chief by-election organiser.
Naturally, I have all the paper-work to prove this.
It is never wise to give in to blackmail. As Detective Inspector Khan might well have told us if he hadn’t been in the dock today, blackmailers always come back for more.
The last time I saw Imam Karmani ironically was in a mosque. In South London where he works much of the time. We were both speaking for the last British hostage in Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Amer. He proudly introduced me to his father. I didn’t ask him why he was in Tooting rather than Bradford (he usually is) because I was just proud he was doing good work. Oddly, he didn’t ask me either, presumably for the same reason. It was a night to remember. I’m not sure how proud his father will be if he ever reads of his son joining in this base and baseless attack upon me in the liberal house-journal though.
George Galloway MP
The imbroglio involving Nigel Farage and a hate-filled mob on the streets of Edinburgh was a pure dead embarrassment to Scotland. Any sensible person can see that. It could have been so described by First Minister Alex Salmond if he was in any way prime ministerial, but it was not. Adding insult to injury Salmond put the boot in and made it all worse. For a popular elected politician to be forced out of Scotland’s capital city in a police van is intolerable and for many will be seen as the shape of things to come in the run up to the independence referendum and beyond – if Salmond were to win. Meanwhile the message sent to millions of English people who support Farage, to investors, tourists and customers, is that Scotland is not open for business if your face – or your flag – doesn’t fit. For me Farage is a right-wing populist Europhobe – the anti-thesis of everything I stand for. But he is not a racist – still less a fascist, and has every right to speak anywhere in the United Kingdom – so long as it exists.
The night before the roughhouse in the Northern Yorkshire town of Rotherham – filled with ex-miners and steel workers – UKIP won a sensational council by-election over Labour. A few weeks ago they scored 25% of the vote in English local elections. Unless millions of working class people in England have swung to Nazism this phenomenon needs better tools to fix than those deployed routinely against the likes of the BNP.
It is said that Farage feeds popular prejudice against foreigners – so do all the mainstream parties, including if the English are to be so described – the SNP.
That he is not particularly sound on gay rights. As sound as Brian Soutter of stage coach – the million pound backer of the SNP – who funded homophobic campaigns throughout Scotland. Farage who is admittedly better if you catch him before lunch time is no different in these things from many other political leaders who, if this fashion catches on, will be told to regard Scotland as a no-go area for them. Where will that leave us?
Not every racist is a fascist; if they were, we’d be being run by men in black uniforms and iron heels. If you believe Paulo DiCanio not even every fascist is a racist. And the idea that folk not keen on gay marriage, for which I voted, should be denied a platform would make Scotland look like Albania circa 1980. These false trails will have to be combatted by more sophisticated arguments than the Doc Martens of a Scottish rent-a-mob. Such tactics will merely garner increased support for them and an increasingly unpleasant reputation for a Scotland itself divided along many different fissures.
Salmond sunk to the occasion showing himself less than a national leader, more as a faction fighter at the head of a motley crew. If the virtual social media spoke for Scotland this game would already be a bogey. Cyber-nats bestride the internet in an increasingly poisonous parade of flag-waving and militancy which makes me wonder what happened to the Scotland I left just eight years ago. In that they are the mirror image of the Faragists who think getting all red-faced going down to the channel ports and shouting boo at Johnny Foreigner can somehow solve our problems, which are not, as it happens, the fault of the English, the immigrants, the gays or the Europeans.
I have had to block hundreds of Scots on Twitter for example, who deny my own right to speak on Scotland’s future despite my having been born and raised here, elected to parliament four times from Glasgow and been a feature in Scotland’s politics for 40 years. All on the grounds that I now live in England. Not that they’ll be sending Sean Connery’s campaign cheque back of course. I have no doubt that when I pitch up to speak on the Fringe of the Edinburgh Festival this summer, that the same thing as happened to Nigel Farage will happen to me. What kind of Scotland is this? Is this really the kind of country you want?
It was once said that anti-semitism was the socialism of fools. So too is the idea that Scotland broken from the rest of this small, island of English- speaking people will somehow lead to some kind of progressive beacon of hope for the world.
The opposite is true. Socialism in one country was a myth, even when the concept was coined to describe a state – the USSR – which stretched from the Urals to Vladivostock. In Scotland, a country of five million, largely empty and with the only population in Europe that is falling, it is even more absurd.
We would be permanently joined to a perpetually Tory England and thus would begin a race to the bottom.
Tory England would always have lower corporate and personal taxation than a so-called socialist Scotland – unless Scotland undercut them. Where then would lie free prescriptions, tuition fees and free care for the elderly? Let alone the red-speckled dreams of the nationalist left fringe?
Independent, Scots would continue to be at the mercy of the waves of international vicissitude. The only difference would be that they had gotten out of an ocean-going liner and climbed into a Para-Handy puffer – with no life boats. The same is true of course of Farage’s fantasy of bulldog Britain. In that sense those waving their flags at each other in Edinburgh last week were bald men fighting over a comb and hair gel.
If Britain cannot face this storm alone how much less can an independent Scotland?
I’ll tell you what would happen when an independent Scotland proved to be a chimera.
Scots would turn inwards, turn on the English and turn on each other. First they would come for the ‘unionists’ as they describe people like me. We would become a ‘fifth column’. Soon other scapegoats would have to be found. Catholic schools, judging by the cyber-nats-speak, would have to succumb. Then it might be the immigrants, brown as well as white who would be ‘taking our jobs’, ‘our houses’, ‘marrying our women’ and the rest. We would become an embittered people, the very opposite of the Scottish internationalist we have been for so long. What a pity.
Who will guard Scotland’s 4000 miles of coast line. A Scottish Royal Navy? How will we pay for it? If you lose your passport in Uzbekistan when you’re scouring the world looking for work, who will replace it? The embassy of England? What currency will you use? Not the English pound I promise you. The Euro? How’s that going? The Icelandic Shilling perhaps? Covered in the ash of a volcanic national bankruptcy? Or would we bring back the Groat? Backed by what? Oil and gas reserves, fast running out? Or sell ice cream to tourists increasingly repelled by the kind of mentality we saw in Edinburgh…
Doesn’t all this seem like a high price to pay? To make Alex Salmond the Prime Minister, he’s just shown himself to be less than capable of being? A Brigadoon Scotland shrouded in the mist of Celtic obscurantism is not for me. Does it do anything for you?
Are the people of Liverpool or Leeds really foreigners to you?
You speak the same language as them, watch the same TV, read the same newspapers, listen to the same radio, eat the same food – usually curry. What foolishness is this?
Did you consider the Beatles your fellow countrymen or not? Have you seen the statue of the late Scotland captain Billy Bremner at Leeds United Stadium?
Do you know who has just followed the greatest living Scotsman Sir Alex Ferguson into the manager’s seat at Manchester United?
Scotland and England have been grafted together like bone, politically for 300 years, physically since the dawn of time.
We have committed – in times of empire – many crimes together. But for a time in the face of real Fascism we stood alone and changed the world. When we did so together, it was our finest hour. Running Nigel Farage out of a press conference was not.
Words by George Galloway MP
Design by Gayatri
Secrets are sometimes necessary in politics. So is telling the truth but not the whole truth. What is never acceptable are lies. Especially from the leader of a party still in recovery from a predecessor who may have fatally wounded it by the tower of lies he built along the path which led to a million dead Iraqis and cascading extremism around the world.
Earlier this year the Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband asked me to come and see him in his suite of offices overlooking the River Thames in the Norman Shaw Building in parliament. In fact he asked me again and again. When my diary proved uncomfortably crowded his office tried even harder to make it happen. “Ed is very keen to meet George” says one e-mail.
It’s not that I was avoiding him, in fact I was intrigued as to what this meeting – with no specified agenda – might be about.
In any case I would never refuse to meet any parliamentary colleague, still less the leader of the opposition. Such meetings, often private, are the stuff of politics at Westminster.
And when the leader of the opposition asking for the meeting is the leader of the party I joined when I was 13 years old, served in at every level for 36 years and loved a lot more than the leader Tony Blair who kicked me out of it ever did, it’s obvious I would fit him in. I’ve known many Labour leaders after all.
Harold Wilson, who won four general elections for the party was a friend of mine. I used to visit him, after his retirement in his rather gloomy flat behind Westminster Cathedral where he would demonstrate his tremendous powers of recall on matters ancient and no recall at all on what he’d said just five minutes before.
James Callaghan frequently invited me to tea in the House of Lords. He like me had never been to university, had come into the party through the trades unions, and was a real Labour man.
I regularly dined with Michael Foot in the Soho eaterie The Gay Hussar, discussed the Second World War over tea and crumpets in the Members Cafeteria of the Commons, sat beside him on the green benches, and of course we were fellow travellers over Iraq. When I was facing expulsion from the Labour Party, Michael Foot gave evidence on my behalf ( he having previously been expelled from the party himself).
Neil Kinnock – though we would become bitter enemies – many times offered me a spare room in his then Ealing house when I first moved to London in 1983 and entertained me in his South Wales home.
John Smith was a close friend of mine for many years until his death.
Gordon Brown – for whom Miliband was once an office boy – previously sat under my chairmanship of the Scottish Labour Party; when I was 26 years old.
The meeting with the current leader, which has become something of a brouhaha came out of the blue and entirely on his initiative. It was a one-on-one with no staff present – which surprised me slightly – and Miliband was gracious in the extreme. Apologising profusely for keeping me waiting slightly he actually helped me off with my coat and personally hung it up by the door. He gave me the best seat in the room and sat with his back to the river.
“The proximate cause of my request to meet you was to discuss the boundaries, but I note that we see eye to eye on that anyway, so thanks for that”. Those were the first words spoken in the meeting by him. The subject was not raised again throughout the remaining fifty-nine and a half minutes of the meeting.
More than one week before, and crucially, before he asked me for the meeting, the Labour Chief Whip had sent an emissary – my own usual channel – to ask how I would be voting on the new boundary proposals.
I had told that emissary that although the Tory sponsored boundary changes suited me in Bradford personally very well – they put me up against the hapless Lib-Dem MP David Ward with Labour nowhere in sight – I would be voting with Labour because I knew the overall changes were designed to help the Tories win the next election, something a good deal more important than my own electoral fortunes. Helpfully, hours later, I sent the emissary an e-mail expanding on my reasons for voting Labour on this!
Thus, Ed Miliband knew before he met me, before he EVEN ASKED to meet me, how I was going to vote on the Boundary Changes.
This is where, for some, it gets a great deal less interesting.
Mr Miliband did not raise with me any possibility of my rejoining Labour. Nor did he discuss any potential co-operation between us on any other matter, then, or in the future.
Neither of course did I, except to say, as we have said since our foundation in 2004, that no Respect MP would ever vote to put the Tories in power. Ever. We consider ourselves a part of the labour movement, indeed as the ghost of Labour’s past, saying the things Labour used to say, standing up for the people Labour used to represent. All this I said in fact from the victor’s rostrum a little over a year ago when I turned a solid Labour majority into a landslide victory for Respect in the Bradford West by-election.
So what did we discuss? We discussed politics. Local – Bradford and East London – national – the Bedroom Tax, the proper response to the Tory Austerity savagery – and international – Palestine, Iraq, the USA. That’s what parliamentarians do. And that’s all Ed Miliband had to say when – months later – the news of the meeting was leaked, presumably deliberately by someone in New Labour, to the Mail on Sunday. It would have had the benefit of being the truth.
Instead he chose to lie. The proximate cause of his lie is presumably rooted in the weakness of his position inside the Labour Party. The intention of the leakers was to administer a further kick at the man they’d never accepted as leader. For them his brother, the prince across the water David, is the true and rightful heir to Blair and the fact that the normal rules of primogeniture were so flagrantly transgressed in his defeat just makes it all much harder to bear.
First Blair himself then a train of camp followers, Peter Mandelson and Lord John Reid in the van, had been putting the boot in to Ed Miliband for the direction he’d been travelling in. Within the shadow cabinet, a pack of (frankly chihuahua-like) attack puppies seem to be constantly biting at the leaders ankles. The proximate cause of that is that Labour’s lead in the polls is vanishingly small given the mass unpopularity of the disastrous Con-Dem coalition government. The Blairite solution is for Labour to be even more like the Con-Dems – except where it’s possible to outflank them on the right!
All that is more Miliband’s business, than mine. His weakness in the ongoing inner-party struggle may well have been a good reason for him not to pursue me for a meeting. It’s not a reason to lie about it once news of the meeting he set up, leaks out.
The Mail on Sunday called me at breakfast in my Bradford constituency on Saturday 20th April. I refused to comment and immediately communicated news of the call to Miliband. I did not want to see him damaged. He had impressed me in the meeting. I want to see David Cameron out. That means Miliband as PM. I hate the Blairites – what’s not to hate?
If Miliband had played with a straight bat I would have never commented at all.
Instead in an act of unprincipled cowardice he immediately – on and off the record- began to authorise abusive attacks on me and my views. Even then, in last Tuesday’s Evening Standard I tried to exculpate him from the charge – which is in fact untrue – that he had tried to attract me back into Labour.
The last straw though came out of his own mouth, under pressure from slimy Nicky Campbell on Radio 5 Live on Thursday morning when he became both personally insulting as well as politically foolish.
He said I was an “awful man” with “awful views” that he wanted to see me defeated at the next election (although Labour has conspicuously NOT placed Bradford West on its target list of winnable seats – little wonder, my majority is more than 10,000 and 56% of the vote in an eight party race).
But if I am “awful” why did he pursue me so earnestly for a private meeting? Why did he say at the end of it “we must do this again…. but perhaps not here” (in his Westminster office)?
If my views are “awful” why have I been elected to parliament six times whilst holding fast to them? Why have I TWICE defeated New Labour, from their left, in rock solid Labour seats; because of my views, or despite them?
And why did his father, Ralph Miliband, hold to virtually identical views all of his long and illustrious life?
Unfortunately perhaps for Ed Miliband, there are many people who share my views, and for whom none of the big parties are speaking, for or to. And who appear to command so little respect from today’s New Labour Party. That, I believe whether he knew it or not, was the real proximate cause of Mr Miliband’s desire to meet me. Because I speak for them. Clearly and without fear and I intend to go on doing so.
That is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help me God.
[George Galloway MP]
The old saw that one shouldn’t speak ill of the recently dead cannot possibly apply to controversial figures in public life. It certainly didn’t apply to President Hugo Chavez who predeceased Margaret Thatcher amidst a blizzard of abuse.
The main reason it must not preclude entering the lists amidst a wave of hagiographic sycophantic tosh of the kind that has engulfed Britain these last hours is that otherwise the hagiographers will have the field to themselves.
Every controversial divisive deadly thing that Thatcher did will be placed in soft focus, bathed in a rose-coloured light, and provide a first draft of history that will be, simply, wrong.
As is now well-known, I refused to do that today on the demise of a wicked woman who tore apart what remained good about my country, and set an agenda which has been followed, more or less, by all of her successors. I certainly wasn’t prepared to leave the obituaries to those who profited from her rule or those who have aped her ever since.
So here is my own memory of Thatcher and what she did in her time on this earth.
On one of my first political demonstrations – against the Conservative government of Edward Heath (1970-74) the slogan of the day was “Margaret Thatcher- Milk snatcher”. It was the first but not the last time I spat out her name in distaste.
Before Thatcher, every primary school pupil received 1/3 of a pint of milk every morning. For some it was the difference between breakfast and no breakfast. I was sometimes one of those. I grew up in a brief period of social democracy in Britain, being dosed by the state with free cod-liver oil, orange juice and malt to build up my strength. Having been born in a slum tenement into a one-room attic in an Irish immigrant area, I needed all of that and more. And like millions I got it, until Thatcher took it away.
She became the Conservative leader after Heath’s two electoral defeats in 1974 and his subsequent resignation.
She was a new type of Tory leader, entirely lacking in anything resembling “noblesse oblige”. She was nasty, brutish and short of the class previously thought obligatory in Britain amongst leaders of the ruling elite. She was vulgar, money-worshipping, and blasphemous. She believed the important part of the Biblical story of the “Good Samaritan” was not that he refused to pass by the suffering on the other side of the road but that he had “loadsamoney”.
In the infamous sermon on the Mound in Edinburgh addressing the Church of Scotland she opined that there was “no such thing as society”…”only individuals”
As the Labour leader Neil Kinnock, in one of his better efforts, retorted: “No such thing as society? Only individuals? No such thing as honouring other people’s parents? No such thing as cherishing other people’s children? No such thing as us and always? Just ME and NOW? ME and NOW?”
She was the living embodiment of Marx’s prediction that under capitalism “all that is solid will melt into air… all that is sacred will be profaned”
Upon her election as prime minister (with just 40% of the vote, her position ensured by the treacherous defection from the Labour cause of the rats now squirming on the Liberal-Democrat ship) she set about “transforming” Britain allright. She privatised Britain’s key industries, enriching her friends, and robbing the public of their birthright. When she took over “Financial Services” represented 3% of the British economy; when she left office it was 40%.
She destroyed the coal industry, the steel, car, bus and motor-cycle manufacturing, truck and bus-making, ship-building and print-industry, the railway workshops… she destroyed more than a third of Britain’s manufacturing capacity, significantly more than Hitler’s Luftwaffe ever achieved.
She did this not just because she prefered the spivs and gamblers in the city -they were her kind of people. But because above all, she hated trades unionism, and was determined to destroy it.
I was a leading member of the Scottish Labour Party at the time she came into office, and a full-time Labour organiser. Scotland was to become an industrial wasteland in the first years of her rule.
I was also, from 1973, a member of the then Transport and General Workers Union, one of her key targets – especially our Docks section.
Importantly, for me, I was an honorary member of the National Union of Mineworkers too.
In all of these capacities I was a front-line short-sword fighter in the rearguard action against Thatcherism.
I fought her at Bathgate, at Linwood, when she was sacking the automotive industry. I fought her at Wapping – every Saturday night when she destroyed the Print workers on behalf of her friend, the organised crime firm owner, Rupert Murdoch. I fought every day of the Miners strike when she destroyed the Miners Union and the communities they represented. I fought her at Timex in Dundee at Massey Ferguson in Kilmarnock, and at the aluminium smelter in Invergordon.
I fought against her poll tax – imposed first in Scotland – as a refusenik of the most iniquitous tax in Britain since mediaeval times, the tax which ended in flames – literally – whilst I was on the platform at Trafalgar Square. And which finally produced her political demise.
And I toured – as a political activist – the desolation in Britain’s post-industrial distressed areas which she left behind. The City of London – deregulated by her – boomed whilst the coalfields and steel areas sank into penury. I saw the rusted factories the flooded mines the idle shipyards and the devilish results of millions of newly and enforced idle hands.
I faced her in parliament from 1987 as well, on these and other issues.
You see it wasn’t just Britain that Thatcher made bleed.
Her withdrawal of political status from Irish republican prisoners and her brutal, securocratic, militarisation of the situation in the north led to much additional suffering in Ireland.
State collusion in the murder of Catholics became endemic during her rule. And ten young men were starved to death for the restoration of political status, before our eyes in her dungeons. She finally died on the anniversary of their leader, Bobby Sands, being elected to parliament as he lay on his death-bed.
During the Falklands War, she sent hundreds of young Argentinian conscripts to a watery grave when she shot the Argentine warship the Belgrano in the back – as it was speeding away from the conflict. She mercilessly exploited the sacrifice of them, and our own soldiers sailors and airmen, to save her own political skin. A lot of brave men had to leave their guts on Goose Green to keep Thatcher in power.
She pushed her alter ego – the semi-imbecilic US president Ronald Reagan – into Cold War fanaticism and burgeoning expenditure on more and more terrifying weapons – many of them stationed on our soil.
She pushed his successor George Bush Sen into the first Iraq War.
I was there, I saw her lips move, when she described Nelson Mandela as a “common terrorist”.
She continued to recognise the genocidal and deposed Pol Pot regime in Cambodia – insisting that Pol Pot was the real and recognised leader of the Cambodians, even as they counted his victims in millions.
And she was the author of the policy of military, political, diplomatic and media support of the Afghan obscurantists who became the Taliban and Al Qaeda. She even produced them on the platform of the Tory Party conference, hailing them as “freedom-fighters”.
I was one of the last men standing in parliament opposing this immoral policy of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”.
On the eve of the triumph of these “freedom Fighters” I told Thatcher to her face; “You have opened the gates for the barbarians….and a long dark night will now descend upon the people of Afghanistan”. I never said a truer word.
I hated Margaret Thatcher for what seems like all my life. I hated her more than I hated anyone – until the mass murderer Tony Blair came along.
It would have been utter hypocrisy for me to have remained silent about her crimes today whilst the political class – including New Labour – poured honeyed words, lies actually, over her blood-spattered record.
I could not do it. I believe I spoke for millions. The wicked witch is dead. Tramp the dirt down.
George Galloway MP
House of Commons
Design by Gayatri
[COPY RIGHT RED MOLUCCA]
This article is dedicated to the memory of the greatest ever British parliamentary figure, Charles James Fox MP
If a year could be compared to an earthquake, then the 12 months which have just elapsed, has definitely been at the upper reaches of the political Richter scale.
Exactly a year ago at around 11pm I tweeted the following: “By the Grace of God we have won a landslide victory in the Bradford West by-election. Long live Iraq, Long live Palestine”. Not only had the votes not been counted by then, they hadn’t even arrived at the Counting House.
That tweet may have been the most audacious act I had ever performed. But within a few hours almost everyone in the country knew it was, indeed, a landmark landslide, in fact unprecedented in British political history.
It was the biggest swing recorded in Britain in a by-election since 1945. It was the first time a fourth party candidate ever secured 58% of the vote (and in an eight party race) more than the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour combined.
It was the first time a candidate standing to the left of Labour took a seat from them whilst the Tories were in power (and in trouble). And it was the second time I had taken a seat from Labour. In 2005 I was the first left of Labour MP elected in England since 1945.
And it placed me alongside only Sir Winston Churchill, as having won six parliamentary election victories in four constituencies in two countries (Scotland and England). Churchill briefly sat for Dundee, the town in which I was born and my ancestors – of Irish extraction – had helped turn over his car when he was defeated and pelted out of town).
The result took almost everybody by surprise, gladdened many, and infuriated some of the most powerfully prolific interests in the land.
On the day the parliamentary vacancy was announced I had tweeted “A parliamentary by-election in Bradford West. Hmmm…. interesting”.
Other than my large Twitter following, no-one in politics seemed to have noticed. Not the national media, who virtually ignored my candidature until I won. Certainly not the Labour Party (from which I had been expelled by Tony Blair over the Iraq war, after 36 years of membership, in 2004) If they had they would not have proceeded to select local councillor Imran Hussein, possibly the worst of the available candidates in the whole country to defend the seat, which had been held by popular MP Marsha Singh, sadly now deceased.
My nearest and dearest, every one, urged me not to stand. They told me that I didn’t need it, couldn’t afford it, was better off (in every respect) out of it. Most of all, they told me that I couldn’t win. One of my chief strategists told me I would lose my deposit (i.e. gain less than 5% of the vote)!
Labour even made it one of the shortest by-election campaigns in modern times – a crucial error given our desperate financial position (virtually nil, in fact I had to use my own money to fund my candidature in the beginning) and facilitating the short sharp and ultimately overwhelming campaign we were able to mount. We would have struggled badly over a lengthy campaign.
“The Bradford Earthquake” as a respected academic study (funded by the Rowntree Foundation) of the campaign came to describe it, started with the merest of tremors and finished shaking the political establishment to its foundations.
On the day I arrived in the city to announce my interest in standing in the by-election Labour moved the writ in parliament and so my speech on the steps of the City Hall was thus instantly transformed into a campaign launch.
My campaign consisted of just two Respect members, Arshad Ali and Riaz Ahmad from Bradford, my now chief of staff Rob Hoveman, who had been by my side for many years, and another Respect member Caroline Conway, my former parliamentary assistant, who couldn’t be there for reasons of work.
Moments after the launch we encountered a former Respect member Abu Bak’r Rauf and his wife Kauser with their baby daughter Arabyah. So now we were seven (and a fraction).
It turned out magnificently for Respect, tragically for the Rauf’s. Midway through the short campaign Abu Bak’r aged just 28, fell dead in front of his family and other campaigners in a local car park. I next saw him on the mortuary slab; he was still wearing my rosette and my election leaflets were bulging in his pockets. May God have mercy upon him. His big brave heart had simply stopped beating. And we stopped campaigning, until his brave widow Kauser literally beat me on the chest berating me back onto the campaign trail after just a 24 hour hiatus. Deducting that 24 hours, and other day trips back to London for previous unbreakable commitments, my battle to win Bradford lasted just 19 days.
The few ebbs and the many flo’s of the campaign – the hundreds of activists who flocked to the cause, the role of Muslim women in the campaign, the triumph over “Baraderieism”, the enormous physical contribution of a family of local solicitors, particularly my now lawyer Alias Yusef, Bradford’s top restaurateurs Shabir Akbar and Ishfaq Farooq, a former RAF officer “Sugar” Ray from Sheffield and others will all have to be described another time. Suffice to say the subsequent electoral landslide caused much consternation amongst the powerful, in the political class and in their media echo-chambers.
How could this happen? How could this turbulent priest of whom they thought they were rid, come back from the dead… again!? How could Tweedledee and Tweedledum have been rolled off the dyke like some… Humpty Dumpties? How could the three cheeks of the same arse get such a comprehensive spanking? And how come nobody saw it coming?
In my book “I’m not the Only One” (Penguin) I talked about “the boys in the bubble”. The political bubble, in which only those opinions which agree to remain within the prevailing orthodoxy, get heard and considered valid. That was the bubble which burst on 29th March 2012.
Of course no-one who’s watched events ever since could say that the establishment accepted their thrashing with grace!
It started in the morning after the night before. A queue of media monkeys lined up to try and rubbish the result. And they have been trying ever since. My religion, my marriage, my record, my work pattern, my views, my podcasts, my suits, my tweets, my beard, my facebook status and more have all been savagely traduced over the last twelve months.
The dogs began barking immediately, apparently oblivious to the fact that the caravan had moved on.
For example when I sacked my secretary I had discovered had been entertaining a senior commander of the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorism Squad (head of the Muslim “Contact” Group no less) in our house without our knowledge or consent. Subsequently they were both arrested and are currently still on bail suspected of a slough of offences. Never mind; the media – “liberal” as well as right – STILL signed her up and have been mining stories from her right up until this very day.
They attacked me for being in Venezuela supporting the hero and martyr Comandante Hugo Chavez during his last triumphant election, even though the other MPs were sitting on deckchairs at seaside resorts at the time.
This weekend (at the end of a week in which I made TWO speeches in parliament) they attacked me for not speaking enough in parliament. Maybe I should speak more there, though this week’s experience of sitting on the back benches for more than EIGHT hours to make two FIVE minute speeches does make me wonder…
They imply I am not in parliament enough, even though the staff there (and the CCTV), could establish that I am in parliament virtually every day (today, Good Friday, I was the ONLY person there because it was on holiday as it has been for 50% of the time since my re-election).
They haven’t noticed, apparently, that in the last 12 months I have placed more issues before the British parliament than ANY other MP; ranging from the Rohingyan genocide in Burma to the price of popcorn in British cinemas. That I have tabled more motions than all the other Bradford MPs put together. That I’ve asked scores of parliamentary questions, entertained scores of campaigning organisations in the House, pursued the cases of hundreds of constituents with ministers, agencies and others.
They say I haven’t “voted” in parliament enough though they know that in parliament MPs can ONLY vote for David Cameron’s motions or Ed Miliband’s amendments, and that I seldom wish to vote for either. They don’t record abstentions, or “none of the above please” in the House of Commons.
In any case what would be gained hanging around the parliament building in the evenings most nights ? Unlike most of the rest, I have never set foot in the many, subsidised, bars and the place holds few attractions for me. To reduce the government’s majority by one? I prefer to use my evenings to speak at public meetings, and I have addressed more of those in the last twelve months than have the other hundreds of MPs put together.
New Labour routinely lie about my work in Bradford, and no wonder. They will never win the seat back if the truth be told. I have a busy surgery in my constituency office there almost every Saturday morning, and have done since I was elected. I have organised three large demonstrations in the City Centre; on the Rohingyas, on Drone strikes, and on the Israeli attacks on Gaza. They say “Make Bradford British”. We say “Make Bradford a World City”
When the Westfield site was occupied by concerned citizens furious at the TEN year delay in filling in the big hole in the centre of the city where a shopping mall was supposed to be, I was the first public official down there to join them. In fact I was the ONLY public official who ever joined them. Westfield now say they will start work this year. If they are telling the truth; well the focus we placed on them by that occupation must have helped.
When I was elected as MP for Bradford West the iconic Odeon building was slated to be knocked down. Now it’s been saved, though its future is still not being guaranteed by the New Labour City Council.
As if in counterpoint to the “Bradford Spring” Bradford City Football Club which had been facing relegation from the football league before I arrived had a simply astounding run of victories all the way to Wembley and their first Cup Final for a hundred years. They became the first ever fourth-tier English football team to reach a Cup-Final. And, thanks to my friend and parliamentary colleague Gerry Sutcliffe MP – the Rugby League team The Bradford Bulls are on the up again.
We forced New Labour to suspend one of its Bradford councillors (he’s now been expelled) over financial skulduggery. We defeated the City Council leader; we won five seats on the city council….all this in twelve months!
Our campaigns in Bradford; against war, crime, corruption, the state of Bradford schools ( the third worst in the country) child poverty ( the third worst in the country) youth unemployment (tripled in the last two years) infant mortality (second worst in the country – 1 death in a hundred births) unemployment levels ( at 12%, one of the highest in the country) car insurance (the highest premiums in the country) to have the Tour de France actually enter the city of Bradford when the council is paying them hundreds of thousands of pounds, rather than merely circumvent it through our admittedly beautiful hinterland, our devastating election victories over all three of the big parties in council elections – have all disturbed the calm in the political class who were bent on Bradford’s steady decline. Fifty years ago Bradford was every bit the equal of Leeds, now Leeds is booming and Bradford is sinking. Their panic, and the ensuing backlash has been considerable.
Local press, echoing obediently their paymasters in the big parties whose council advertising keeps them afloat, either ignore us or attack us, whenever they possibly can. Thankfully fewer and fewer people read newspapers, and fewer still believe much what off what they read there.
Anyway my message is still getting out there.
In a whirl of Question Time, Any Questions, C4 News, Daily Politics, Parliament Channel, Press TV, Russia Today and other appearances.
On YouTube, where there are more than 30,000 videos featuring my work, attracting millions and millions of viewers.
On Facebook and on Twitter I have approaching a quarter of a million friends and followers from all over the world. When I give public speeches, which I do every week and often several times a week, the halls are always full. As is my public appearances diary.
My books sell well; my articles circulate on the internet. Google me and you’ll find millions of references. Who can name the other Bradford MPs, however worthy?
It’s been a truly amazing year, through the turbulence of which I have only passed safely by the Grace of God, the love of my brilliant intellectual and beautiful wife Gayatri, my staff, and the work and support of my comrades and friends and constituents in Bradford, on the internet, across the country and around the world. Here’s to the next year, God-willing.
Words by George Galloway MP
Design by Gayatri
Copyright Red Molucca
Charles James Fox was Parliament’s finest ever orator, was thrice expelled from the House and thrice carried back by the people on their shoulders. He was the only British MP to support the American side in their War of Independence against the British Crown. He was the only British MP to support the French Revolution to the extent that he tabled a Motion congratulating the people of France on the execution of their King and looking forward to the day when the same fate befell all the Crowned heads of Europe. He fought against slavery and for Catholic Emancipation and parliamentary reform.
On this day in 1983 the Reverend Jesse Jackson embarked on his first attempt to win the presidency of the United States of America. Before then, it was an impossible dream. Twenty years before, black people in America had to sit at the back of the bus, piss in a separate pot – indeed a separate washroom – eat at a different lunch counter, go to a separate school, almost never go to university.
Black people in America scarcely ever voted, found it hard to get registered to vote. Outright racists, segregationists, like Governor George Wallace were pillars of the Democratic Party. Places like Mississippi were still burning with Ku Klux Klan fiery crosses, strange fruit – lynched black men – still twisted and turned whilst hanging from southern trees.
The Reverend Jackson’s electrifying run for president that year began to change all that for good. His three million votes in that campaign and his six million votes in 1988 directly paved the way to the presidency of Barak Obama. After Jesse Jackson – who would have made a better president than Obama – there was no turning back, for African-Americans, for the Democrats, for the United States of America.
Thus his endorsement this very day of Lee Jasper our Respect candidate for the forthcoming Croydon West by-election in South-West London is worth his weight in gold for us. That Jesse Jackson is following our democratic rising against the politics of austerity, neo-liberal economics, imperialism, occupation and war is a compliment in itself. That he rates our candidate Lee Jasper so highly is not only a vindication of our choice but might be worth serious numbers of votes too.
We have been attacked, as always, this time for “targeting” black voters (24% of the total electorate), making a change from the usual charge that we are “targeting” Muslim voters – there are 10,000 of those in the constituency. Except we are being attacked for “targeting” those voters too.
Of course the only sense in which we are “targeting” either is that we are asking them to vote for us.
Every party “targets” the voters they think most likely to respond to their policies, don’t they?
So what are our policies, and why would black (Christian, Hindu, Sikh) and Muslim voters be most likely to respond to what we stand for?
Well, Respect is the anti-racist party in Britain. New Labour (renamed by the criminal Tony Blair) the right-wing Conservatives and their peculiar bed-fellows the Liberal-Democrats have all played the racist card in recent years, issuing forth their “dog-whistle” pitch in an attempt to attract the “Little Englander”, “hunt the immigrant”,” scapegoat the Muslim” section of the electorate and ahem, curry favour with the rabid yellow press which whips such sentiments up.
Respect is the anti-war party in Britain. It emerged out of the great movement against the Afghan and Iraq wars, when millions marched against these catastrophes and were betrayed by their parliamentarians. Respect opposes all British imperial wars. New Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats continue to support what they have now re-named the “mission” in Afghanistan, even though the public in overwhelming number oppose it. Britain has neither the blood or the treasure to waste on the plains of Afghanistan where so many other occupation armies have bled and suffered only later, too much later, been forced to withdraw in ignominy.
Respect is the anti-austerity party in Britain. We reject the idea that the working people and the poor, the unemployed, the pensioners, the young people, should pay the price of capitalist failure and bankers’ greed. All the other parties support the savage cuts in public spending and the services the money funds. We say, reverse these cuts; the working people have already paid. Many are suffering from the freezing blasts of austerity. Black and minority ethnic communities are suffering the most.
My victory in the Bradford West by-election six months ago – the biggest swing in British post-war history – when Respect won a landslide victory with a majority in the “safe” Labour seat of over ten thousand votes showed that nowhere is “safe” any more for the parties of austerity and war. That a politics of democratic insurgency has been born, and that Britain is not immune from the radicalisation sweeping mainland Europe, Latin America, the Arab world and beyond.
The attacks upon us – and the campaign hasn’t even officially started – are a clear sign that the lamestream political class and their mouthpieces in the media are running scared. As well they might be. When all they have to offer is more blood, more pain, more poverty, why shouldn’t they be scared that the people, if offered a better way, might just choose it.
[George Galloway MP]
If you can help Respect’s Croydon campaign, with financial donations or in any other way, please contact us at www.respectparty.org
To the best of my knowledge I have never met Babar Ahmad, but I know his father well. Like his local MP, Sadiq Khan now a prominent New Labour frontbench spokesman, I have always been convinced of his innocence on the charges trumped up against him in the United States. And even more convinced that if he did commit any such crimes he must be tried before a jury on them in the country the crimes were allegedly commited in. His own country, Great Britain.
It is simply bamboozling that the British state could think one of its own nationals not worth prosecuting for alleged crimes, yet be prepared to imprison him for eight long years then extradite him on the Banana Republic terms of our one sided treaty, to the US instead.
Worse than bamboozling, it is a mark of shame upon our country.
Like most of the current crimes being carried out by the Cameron gang, this one can be traced back to the Blair-New Labour years.
It was David Blunkett, Tony Blair’s then Home Secretary, who secretly, behind parliament’s back concluded an extradition treaty with the US that Vanuatu would have turned up its nose at.
In short, Washington need not show a scintilla of evidence to extradite our citizens whilst we would find it harder to climb through the eye of a needle than to succesfully extradite one of their citizens to the UK.
Babar Ahmad is certainly not the first and will not be the last victim of this treaty.
Previous victims though are not Muslims, not facing bogus “terrorism” related charges, not likely to face Guantanamo style prison arrangements, and not likely to be banged up for the rest of their naturals as enemy aliens in the infamous US prison system. Most are not black.
Not that Babar Ahmad is even accused of involvement in terrorism of course, merely that he may (he denies it and I believe him) have, that most nebulous of terms, “glorified” it via a web-site.
His long calvary has not of course been confined to eight years, untried, in sundry UK prisons. The Metropolitan Police have already had to pay him a vast sum in compensation for the horrific torture he suffered at their hands when they dragged him from his bed, his petrified wife lying beside him, and savagely beat and mistreated him, insulted his religion, resulting in injuries more often seen in torture victims abroad.
Will Babar Ahmad receive a fair trial in the United States? If you believe that, you will believe anything.
Will Britain ever expunge this this stain from its hands? To paraphrase Shakespeare “all the perfumes of Arabia will not out that damned spot”.
| George |