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]
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