Friday, May 12, 2006

The other end of the ice pick

Today's House Points from Liberal Democrat News, which somehow turned out less critical of Gorgeous George than it was intended to be.

The text message should certainly have read "PETE 2 WIN". And in a show of editorial caution the words "drink-sodden" were omitted before "former Trotskyist popinjay" in the published version.

I say: so sue me, Hitch.

Cat o'nine tales

George Galloway was back in the House on Monday. Not the house – you did not see ‘DENNIS IS FIT – PETE TO WIN’ scrolling across the screen – but the House. He had an adjournment debate on press regulation.

The Respect member for Bethnal Green and Bow has a long history of involvement with newspapers. He wrote a lucrative column for many years and he has netted around two million pounds in libel cases. (Which means I shan’t be repeating that story about him. Or that story. And certainly not that story.)

On Monday he was not calling for new controls so much as rehearsing his grievances against the press. And whatever you think of Galloway, he does have cause to feel aggrieved. It is probably no coincidence that such a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq found himself traduced on both sides of the Atlantic.

His most recent adventure is a run in with the News of the World. Galloway unmasked Mazher Mahmood the ‘fake sheik’ after what sounds like a crude attempt to set him up.

Perhaps the issues are more balanced than first appears – Mahmood has fingered many villains in his time and has reason to defend his anonymity – but it was still funny seeing the News of the Screws going to court to plead for people’s right privacy.

The only sane verdict on all this is Tom Stoppard’s: “I'm with you on the free press. It's the newspapers I can't stand.”

Where now for Galloway? His Respect party is not built to last. Its activists come from the Trots of the Socialist Workers Party, but Galloway himself is on the other end of the ice pick.

He once said “the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life,” and when he described Christopher Hitchens as a “drink-sodden former Trotskyist popinjay” he knew which word was meant to be most wounding.

Add to this a broad strand of Islamist identity politics – the party’s candidate for Mayor of Newham claimed Israel has been “formulating and directing UK and US foreign policy” – and you have a beast that makes a pantomime horse look graceful.

Made it. A whole column about Galloway without a single cheap crack about cats.

1 comment:

Jonathan Calder said...

If anyone can find a broader point here, please let me know.