Daddy, what did you do during the Iraq war?

Don’t ask questions you do want the answer to, at least not where George Galloway is involved


“I’m not here on trial!” On Good Morning Britain, George Galloway was just warming up. Say what you like about the man – actually don’t, because he’ll sue – he has one of the most wonderful voices in Parliament, a smooth throaty purr that can suddenly open to a roar, like a Harley Davidson running on honey.

Whether Galloway’s career has been politics’ gain is, politely, a contested point, but it was definitely a loss to the voiceover industry. In another universe, he’s the most-requested reader on the CBeebies Bedtime Hour, his rendition of The Snail And The Whale bringing grown men to tears.

But in our fallen world, we get him arguing with Richard Madeley and Susanna Reid on breakfast television. This was unenlightening, but still, in its way, entertaining: planet-sized egos clashing over cornflakes.

Reid opened by asking about Rishi Sunak’s weird decision to make a Downing Street statement denouncing the voters of Rochdale for electing the man. “I think he’s probably a little embarrassed at the melodrama,” Galloway replied with frankly awe-inspiring condescension, the Harley engine voice idling. He doesn’t get into gear for people like Sunak.


Madeley, though, had a gotcha question: hadn’t Galloway once said some nice things to Saddam Hussein? He’s not wrong, but we have to ask what was going on in Madeley’s mind. He was opposite  a man who faced down Christopher Hitchens and the US Senate. Yet somehow he’d told himself: “In three decades, no interviewer has ever managed to make this guy show even a hint of shame, but I think I can do it before the next ad break, using an ancient TV clip.”

Galloway was dismissive. “You might have found some” – deep in his throat the engine roared to life – “NEWER cuttings to throw at me. Our country is falling apart around our ears and you want to talk about something that happened THIRTY. YEARS. AGO.” Was this point somewhat weakened by coming from the mouth of a man whose political life has been driven largely by events in Palestine in 1948? Perhaps. Did it matter? Not really.

He was off now. His party, whatever it’s called this week, was going to field candidates the length of the country. They were going to do to Labour what Nigel Farage’s Reform is doing to the Tories. Galloway has a lot in common with Farage: both of them drive their opponents so mad that they make mistakes. Listening to both of them, you’re sure there’s something quite unpleasant that they’re not quite saying, but if you challenge them it’s impossible to pin it down.

And both men seem like they feel they ought to have been a more important character in our political drama than they are. Like a frustrated actor offered a cameo, they’re determined to steal the show.

The heroic Galloway narrative is never quite right, but explaining why it’s wrong immediately takes you into the weeds of history. “Tony Blair threw me out of Labour over the Iraq War,” he raged, which is sort-of true, although a full third of Labour MPs managed to vote against that war without being ejected from the party. Jeremy Corbyn, never previously recognised as a member of the War Faction of the party, somehow managed to stay inside.

Madeley pressed on, but Galloway was having none of it. He was at full throttle now, his voice at 80 miles-an-hour at sunset on a California freeway. “I was right about Iraq,” he told the presenter. “It’s you that was miserably WRONG.”

Madeley began to protest, but Galloway was having none of it. “YOU parroted YOUR support for a war that turned into an ABOLUTE CATACLYSM,” he roared. “I KNOW YOUR WAR RECORD!” It was a line delivered with the force of a retired colonel who’d discovered that Madeley had faked flat feet to stay out of the trenches.

Almost no one can get away with this sort of thing. Later Madeley and Reid would hear from Keir Starmer, who squirmed somewhat through questions about his evolving position on transgender issues. The Labour leader is now pretty close to what you might think of as the JK Rowling position, but drives all sides up the wall by pretending that his views have never changed. There’s a certain amount of shamelessness here, obviously, but it’s not pathological. Starmer at least looks a touch awkward as he explains that earlier interview comments were misunderstood.

Did he owe Labour MP Rosie Duffield an apology? “Rosie and I get on very well, we discuss a number of issues,” Starmer replied. A couple of hours later, someone on Twitter asked Duffield how these discussions took place. “Telepathy?” she replied, suggesting that not everything in the Labour garden is sweetness and light.

Galloway was definitely more fun. Reid, laughing with frustration, finally gave up. He’d ignore all their questions, she said. “What is the question you would like to ask yourself?”

The MP eased the throttle back a little and took a deep breath. “I would like to ask myself – and wish YOU had asked ME – about Monty Panesar, the famous left-arm spin bowler English cricket ace…” For a moment, it seemed that Galloway was about to give us his take on the 2009 Ashes series. Was all his anger really simply frustration at never being invited onto Test Match Special? What a commentator he would have been, growling at Aggers in between balls that he knew all about his war record! But no. It turned out that Panesar is a Parliamentary candidate for Galloway. “That’s INTERESTING,”  the MP told Reid sternly, “and CURRENT.”

“George Galloway,” she said, conceding defeat. “It’s lovely to talk to you this morning.”

“Yeah, right,” he snarled, and drained his mug. He had to get moving. In a parallel universe, he was recording a Chocolate Orange ad at nine.

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