“Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear…” Seated on the evictee’s couch, amidst a
baying live audience (stacked, it was rumoured, with young Labour
loyalists), maverick MP George Galloway – freshly evicted from the Celebrity Big Brother
household – was beginning to realise that his extraordinary decision to
take part in the show (along with basketballer Dennis Rodman, trannie
pop star Pete Burns and other flotsam) had not been the coup that he
had hoped for.
As host Davina McCall flashed front page after front page showing
“Gorgeous George” alternately doing a robot dance, or miming a cat
drinking milk from the hand of actress Rula Lenska, the full dimensions
of the disaster were beginning to become apparent to him. It was a
conclusion that those who had supported him as a figurehead, however
flawed, of the anti-war movement had come to sometime before.
Even for a political culture which specialises in media crossovers (panel shows such as Have I Got News For You
can usually persuade MPs of all stripes to have a go) Galloway’s
appearance was always going to be car crash TV of the highest order.
Entering the house three weeks ago and introducing himself as “the
leader of the anti-war movement” to his bemused housemates, he claimed
that he had taken the gig in order to communicate with the mass of
Britain alienated from politics, and that he would talk about the war,
Blair, unemployment, lack of educational opportunity and so on.
If he ever did, it never made the broadcasts. Instead, Britain was
treated to the spectacle of the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, dressed
variously as a Chicago gangster, in a red leotard, sparring and
spatting with fellow Z list celebrities. It was the most extraordinary
act of reputational self-destruction since…well since Germaine Greer
went on Celebrity BB, denounced the programme as fascist and stormed out, still dressed in a milking maid’s costume.
Galloway’s appearance stunned everyone, none more so than his putative
political party Respect – a group largely run by the Trotskyist
Socialist Workers Party – who had not known of their member’s decision
until they saw him on the runway going in. For the last week, Respect
spokesperson – and a veteran of decades of Marxist street politics –
John Rees has been stalwartly denying that his MP’s antics have
been deeply embarrassing, arguing (watch and learn) “well, on an
embarrassment scale of 1 to 10 if 10 is lying about a war and killing
100,000 people, no, we’re not embarrassed.”
Yeah, right. In truth Galloway’s appearance has been a disaster for the
antiwar movement – hardly helped by the release of new footage of him
chatting grinningly with Uday Hussein. But something like this was
hardly unexpected. The Respect coalition itself is a bizarre marriage
of Marxists and some fairly fundamentalist Muslims. The SWP has long
had a reputation for opportunism, but “this time,” as one comrade
remarked to me in a Hackney pub, “we have outdone ourselves.”
In other UK political news, one candidate for leadership of the
Lib-Dems withdrew after confessing to a six month “affair” with male
prostitutes including, noted The Sun lasciviously, “acts too
disgusting to reveal in a family newspaper.” The next day, another
leadership candidate, clarified that he too, prior to his marriage, had
been homosexual for a few years but wanted it noted that he had never
paid for it.
And this is the centrist party. Perhaps it’s something in the water, but it sure beats Barnaby Joyce.