the Disillusioned kid: What Was He Thinking?
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Sunday, November 06, 2005

What Was He Thinking?

I'm hardly the world's biggest fan of George Galloway at the best of times, but I think Jamie k is onto something when he suggests Gorgeous George "was returned to Westminster as a walking, talking, litigating fuck you to the Prime Minister, his allies and his foreign policy." The very least we can expect from the MP for Bethnal Green & Bow is that he give the government a solid kicking over the "War in Terror". Which is precisely why his failure to turn up for the vote on the Terrorism Bill on Wednesday is so inexcusable.

Wednesday's rebel amendment to the Bill would have introduced a requirement of proof of intention in order to pursue a prosecution under the incitement to commit terrorism offence. While I remain dubious about the proposed offence, caveats or no, this would seem to have been a step in the right direction. Sensible or not, the amendment was defeated by 300 votes to 299, the closest the government has come to losing a vote since 1997. Had Galloway been present the government would have been forced to turn to the casting vote of the Speaker, a humiliating spctacle, even if the amendment had still been defeated.

And where exactly was Galloway during all of this? Attending what the Grauniad describe as "a lucrative speaking engagement" in Cork. This all provides an opportunity for us to witness the bizarre spectacle of various Labour party representatives slagging him off for not being sufficiently active in his opposition to government policy and letting down his constituents, but hypocrisy aside, the criticisms are valid. To be sure, the LibDem MPs who failed to turn up to the vote are also responsible for the defeat, had they been present the government would have been beaten fair and square, but given the anti-war basis of his campaign, Galloway's absence is particularly blameworthy.

It has long been my opinion that the attempt by certain groups to push the anti-war movement in an electoral direction was a mistake, but predicating this entire strategy on one man in the way the party has done does them no favours. The simple truth is that Galloway was only able to get elected in Bethnal Green because of who he was and a massive campaign by Respect supporters, which saw members being shipped in from at least as far away as Nottingham. Galloway hasn't done so badly out of all this what with his speaking tours and whatnot, but what does the wider anti-movement have to show for it? A humiliating near defeat for the government would have been a start. Maybe next time George?

(Hat tip MTC, Paul, Jamie, Chris and Quarsan.)

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