Paul Cruikshank responds to yesterday’s controversial article and says a return for George Galloway would be a backwards and damaging step.
Yesterday, Scott McGregor wrote that Scottish Labour should welcome George Galloway back into the party, and even let him stand as an MP in 2020.
He was right to highlight that we lost a great deal of talent in May. Part of Kez’s rebuilding of Labour is to refresh talent across our party at all levels and the current list selection process for the Scottish parliament is part of that. We need fresh people who have new ideas, and experienced people who know how to get things done.
What we do not need, though, is George Galloway.
Yes, it might be interesting. For some, it might even be exciting. It cannot be denied that the man is a fantastic orator – but it’s what he has said, and not how he has said it, that causes me, and others, grave concern.
A man who says – and has repeatedly refused to withdraw or apologise for saying – that rape is merely “bad manners” and “bad sexual etiquette” is a man who can sit behind the feminist leaders of my party.
A man who refuses to debate a teenager, merely because he is an Israeli, is not a man who can reach out across Scotland’s multicultural divide.
A man who writes that “it’s not true…that you are executed in Iran for being gay” (which is, of course, not true) is not part of the LGBT and equality tradition which I and my party are proud to be a part of.
But it’s not just his misogyny and casual anti-Semitism. It’s him.
One of the many, many lessons Labour must take from May is that we can never again be arrogant or presumptuous. We can never again allow ourselves to believe we our infallible and untouchable. Can George Galloway be part of that? It doesn’t take much thought. We laughed at UKIP blaming their defeat in Oldham on dodgy postal votes; shouldn’t we do the same with Gorgeous George?
Scott’s right, though, to say that Galloway standing in Glasgow would certainly make the headlines. He could declare the South Side an “Israel-free zone”. He could question the harrowing experiences of a remarkable woman who face more mental anguish than I could even conceive – who could even be his “comrade”. His overtures to Scotland’s continuing shame would, I’m sure, go down a treat in the city at the heart of it all.
George Galloway is a law unto himself. So long as he keeps it to himself, that’s fine. And Labour has changed since George was rightly kicked out of the party. While Galloway has jumped about from Bethnal to Bradford, standing against Scottish Labour in Glasgow in 2011 along the way and now standing against us again in London, Scotland has moved on, and now so must we.
Let our future candidates bring electoral experience and statesman-like qualities, but let them also be true to Labour’s values of social justice and equality for all forever. Not just those they like, and not just when it suits them.