GALLOWAY: “I’M READY FOR BRADFORD WEST”
Like him or loathe him, George Galloway has an inimitable persona that makes him stand apart from his political adversaries. Known as a maverick throughout his robust political career, Galloway is mulling over his decision to contest for the Bradford West parliamentary elections to be held next year. Will he be standing again? And has the birth of his new born child mellowed down the polemic politician?
As we meet at MyLahore in Bradford for a late lunch, Galloway is seated alongside his wife Gayatri, who dotingly nestles their new born child. We talk a little about Bradford and the positive work taking place within the city and then go back to Galloway’s early days where he ruminates on his journey of humble beginnings growing up in a working-class Dundee household to sensationally becoming Member of Parliament for Bradford West in 2012.
“I was born in Dundee, in Scotland. We had a very happy and stable family and my mother and father never spent a single day apart from their marriage until my father’s death. They brought me up with strong values and beliefs – religious beliefs and political beliefs,” he tells me whilst fondly reminiscing his childhood. He continues, “My father never drank alcohol and he brought all of us up to hate alcohol. That was quite an unusual thing in Scotland – Scottish, Irish – normally quite a hard drinking culture. My father was all his life a Labour activist and an official of the Engineering Union (AEU) and my mother was a school cleaner”.
These strong values and beliefs, embedded by his parents at a very early age, gave Galloway the tools to aspire and ultimately enter politics. At the age of 23, he became the Labour organiser in Aberdeen and in 1987, Galloway was elected the MP for Glasgow Hillhead. It was a Labour Party gain from the Social Democratic Party defeating Roy Jenkins with a majority of 3,251. At the age of 32 he moved to London and continued with his political beliefs and became a leading figure within the Labour party.
Never shy of expressing his true feelings, Galloway became increasingly critical of the governments backing of the war in Iraq and in 2001 he became the Vice-President of the Stop the War Coalition. Actively involved, he often delivered speeches from StWC platforms at anti-war demonstrations. From this position, Galloway made many aggressive and controversial statements in opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“Mr Blair took a decision that this term was not big enough for both of us and decided that I was to be expelled. Mr Benn [the great Labour figure], Mr Foot [the former Labour leader] and Tony Woodley [the leader of Britain’s biggest union] were my main character witnesses and urged the party not to make this decision. But the tribunal had already made their decision and when the final verdict was delivered, my 36 years of Labour party membership were bought to an abrupt end.”
After being expelled by the Labour Party, Galloway would not be deterred from continuing with his criticism of the Blair government’s foreign policies and immediately formed the Respect Party. In 2005 he won the newly formed party their first parliamentary seat in Bethnal Green and Bow.
“Mr Blair took a decision that this term was not big enough for both of us”
After the unexpected demise of sitting Labour MP Marsha Singh in 2012, Galloway set his sights on Bradford. Asked as to why he chose Bradford, he replied, “There were quite a few factors. I was no longer in parliament at the time and I felt that Bradford offered an obvious and visible, pre-existing basis of support. There was also a rejection of the Labour candidate who was regarded by most voters as unsuitable. An earlier example of that was that he refused to appear at any Hustings. Therefore, people concluded that if he was not capable of turning up and arguing with Galloway, what kind of MP would he be?”
“The Labour candidate who was regarded by most voters as unsuitable”
The 2012 election campaign offered an unusual ambience in the city as Galloway was seen by many as an outsider trying to gate crash the party. As the campaign gathered momentum and the elections quickly approaching, all candidates were asked to appear on the Sunday Politics Show.
“The Labour candidate made a fatal decision to appear on the BBC roundtable discussion one week before polling day. I said on television that he has just committed political suicide and I knew on that day that I would win. So, a rejection of the Labour candidate and my role in the war and Palestine as well as we a being a real Labour figure, all contributed to me winning the election.”
Since being elected as Bradford West MP, Galloway continues to be a provocative figure. Whether tweeting on Twitter or posting on Facebook, the Bradford MP has a hard-core following as well as those who oppose him accusing him of being a divisive figure. His recent remarks about Bradford should become an “an Israel free zone” further added fuel to the fire.
He states, “I stand by my comment but it was misrepresented. First of all there are a very small number of Israeli’s who oppose the crimes that Israel commits and they would be received in Bradford as heroes. But those who support the crimes that Israel commit would not be welcome. It’s not a question of banning them. Nobody can ban anybody and I never used the word ‘ban’. We as human beings have a right to welcome or not welcome someone’s company and we wanted to send a message that Israel’s crimes were so grave that we wanted to boycott them. I never ever mentioned the word ‘Jews’. We have nothing against Jews and many of them are on our side. Not all Jews support Israel and we have nothing against them. I only regret how, just like in many cases previously, my statement has been misrepresented.”
What everyone wants to know is whether Galloway will be standing again next year to contest his seat in Bradford West. Have the two bustling years in Bradford taken their toll on the seasoned politician? He ardently states, “The things that motivate me, never go away. As long as God gives me breath, I will continue doing what I am doing. Bradford is at the bottom of most of the leagues we want to be at the top of and at the top of the leagues we want to be at the bottom of. There is still a lot of work to be done, hence, it is my intention to stand in Bradford one more time. The people of Bradford can make up their minds whether they want to give me a full term or not.”
Whatever happens in May 2015, George Galloway is staying in Bradford for the time being and whoever he goes up against next year, it will be one eagerly anticipated contest.