“David S made this comment,
So how do you feel about George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green using his time for shameless self-promotion instead of working for his constituents like 95% of other MPs. He is a crook, a joke and a disgrace.”

I am not surprised to be answering questions as to George Galloway’s participation in Celebrity Big Brother, I am even less surprised to have the first one on this blog levelled by long-time political ostrich Glasgow Dave who appears to have completed his transition into New Labour pastiche mode. Sadly, rather than criticising with any factual-based remarks he chooses to rattle off a short invective full of vitriolic style but more than a little lacking in substance, it is however I guess rather endemic of the political mainstream these days and if Glasgow Dave is seeking to emulate the Tony Blair/David Cameron homogeity he is indeed to be congratulated on his success.

My initial reaction to the revelation that George would be going into Big Brother was not a favourable one. I dislike the program and the format intensely and it appears to be systematic of the proof that many people would genuinely watch paint dry were there to be a sniff of a celebrity endorsement or the chance to win some money betting on which wall might dry first! The fact that George’s fellow house-mates included vacuous non-entities like Jodie Marsh, Dennis Rodman and Traci Bingham did not lead me to believe that the program would be a hotbed of scintillating conversation.

Upon reflection and having read and digested the statements and initial media reaction I recognise that George’s reasons, however, are at least valid, he cites firstly that some of the proceeds of the premium rate phone number that viewers will be calling on will go to charities of the participants choice and his choice is Interpal that works in Palestine, this has the effect of forcing the Palestinian agenda at least into the partial mainstream whether Channel 4 like it or not. Secondly the point that he will be able to reach a large audience that is at best ambivalent and for a large part utterly apathetic towards politics and politicians is no less crucial. It is a statistic often trotted out that more young people vote in Big Brother nominations than in General Elections but it does serve to underline the general disenfranchisement of the new generation of voters in this country.

George claims in a bulletin sent to party members and published on the Respect website “I will talk about racism, bigotry, poverty, the plight of Tower Hamlets, the poorest place in England sandwiched between the twin towers of wealth and privilege in Canary Wharf and the spires of the City. I will talk about war and peace, about Bush and Blair, about the need for a world based on respect.” Perhaps mere noble words indeed, but one cannot doubt the validity of the ironic geographical position of his constituency, whether or not one doubts his ability to represent it.

At this point I ought to say that whilst I have marginally softened to the idea of his participation I have far less faith in the media and do not believe that any attempt at a political message will be broadcast on the program as Channel 4 use Big Brother for the gossip and titilation powers rather than as a vehicle for any information, education or debate. I believe the more political George is in the Big Brother house the less he will be seen on the Channel 4 highlights program thus rendering his message largely pointless. This has been borne out by the first week’s programming so far. I believe Channel 4’s motivation to get George in the house was purely for the shock value of his initial entry rather than any subsequent participation. He has for them served that purpose and is thus surplus to requirements in their eyes, I would now in fact be astonished if he is not in fact the first evictee from the house. It is principally for this reason that I doubt very much if any tangible political good will be done to George’s reputation or the interests of Respect as a party.

Even columnist Zoe Williams in The Guardian has acknowledged that Channel 4’s policy in removing any political reference is one that will only add to the problem of the disinterest in politics amongst the 16-24 year olds. Her article makes interesting reading and alludes to an attempt by the paper to smear Galloway upon his entry by suggesting that he was derelict in his duty to constituents because he had not responded to their attempt to contact on the day he entered the Big Brother house. Williams points out that she is still waiting for another MP to return contact from November.

I think it was Spike Milligan who first said 88% of all statistics are made up and I think we must apply that to Glasgow Dave’s assertion that 95% of MPs are working for their constituents whilst George Galloway is in the 5% that do not. It is very easy to level criticism at George Galloway for his constituency acts when one doesn’t know anything about what they may be. Glasgow Dave is not resident in Bethnal Green, I do not know if he has ever been there, he is therefore somewhat unqualified to comment but a brief look at the facts may allow us to determine whether his accusation holds any water. In the 8 months that George Galloway has represented Bethnal Green and Bow he has campaigned alongside Defend Council Housing, and as a result the New Labour council was recently defeated in five of the seven ballots it held to give away council housing to private landlords and called off another three in the face of certain defeat. Furthermore the New Labour proposal for PFI privatisation of the Royal London Hospital has been criticised for its potential to cost the taxpayer over £4 million per bed, even the government have now taken this proposal back under review. There is a list of all of the public engagements that George Galloway has attended within the bounds of his constituency, I would certainly defy anyone to find 95 MPs that have a better record let alone finding 95% of them. As to any statement regarding constituency work whilst George in in the house one must bear in mind that Parliament is in recess and many constituency MPs are in fact on holiday, this means a great many local MPs will not have constituency surgeries taking place. You will find a surgery taking place this Friday in Bethnal Green just as last Friday.

I would seriously question what any of the Labour cabinet or the Tory shadow cabinet do on a regular basis for their constituents or for that matter the many MPs who have other jobs outside the House of Commons. It is no secret that many frontline MPs do not return to their constituencies after politics but take up lucrative directorships in the city or non-executive directorships where they can work from the golf course home. Where do we assess whether or not an MP works for his constituents, what are the criteria and how do we determine if an MP has met them. To my mind the only measure I can see is that if an MP has, after consultation with the people s/he is elected to represent, put his/her own personal views and party loyalties to one side to vote according to the wishes of his/her constituents then s/he can be regarded as having worked for the good of the constituency. I would contest that such an MP is a very very rare beast indeed. This is however the nature of modern politics, by taking representatives and moving them to a legislature far far away from those whence they have come a degree of detachment is inevitable. The only method of doing anything about this that I can see is the original soviet (please note, soviet with a small ‘s’, if you don’t know what that means please ask, rants regarding mid to late 20th century Russia will be frowned upon!) method of devolving down to local assembly level in every area and there is still much to be sorted out in terms of how this would work.

Glasgow Dave appears to have a problem with “shameless self-promotion” and on this point we can agree, I have long since been a critique of the socially devisive “Celebrity” culture but I have not noticed Comrade Dave being especially vociferous on any of these points. I have not heard a Glasgow Dave diatribe about Tony Blair appearing on Des O’Conner tonight or the Prime Minister’s cynical and woeful attempts to ingratiate himself with the “Britpop” scene or England’s victorious crickets after the Summer Ashes series. And whilst I no longer visit Glasgow Dave’s site I did check through his archives to attempt to ensure whether I was in fact doing him a disservice. I have highlighted the link to allow any readers to search for themselves. Whether Glasgow Dave likes it or not current politics is a business now that involves media coverage, this has been exploited mercilessly by the New Labour media machine who have sought to ensure that they remain ingratiated to The Sun and its influential owner, media tyrant Rupert Murdoch, by pandering to the politics of populism. If one compares the time or column inches devoted to George Galloway and Respect compared with those devoted to the last series of “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here” he may draw a conclusion as to why George has sought to broaden his audience. If Glasgow Dave wishes to join us and fight for a world where politics is not simply about which section of the elite a party represents then I for one would be more than happy to put past disagreements behind us and welcome him, I’m afraid until such time I must question his commitment and thus treat his less than constructive comments with the degree of disinterest with which he appears to treat the huge disenfranchised population of this country and the wider world.

If nothing else this rant has garnered Respect a little more vociferous support from me than I had been inclined to give them over the past few months! For my part I would far rather have politicians who are fervently committed to their ideals even if I do not agree with all of them, than a group of faceless spin machines acting like marionettes controlled by some parliamentary Svengali. I will leave readers to make up their own mind as to which category George Galloway fits into. What a pity Glasgow Dave did not choose to come and debate actual political policy a subject that might have served interesting debate but instead fell into the trap of indulging in personality politics.

Song Of The Day ~ The Kooks – You Don’t Love Me

Original Comments:

jimmy sunshine made this comment,
I can’t argue with you on George’s constitutional commitment RB – I don’t get to Befnal Green much myself – but I never had any doubts about George Galloway outside of Celebrity Big Brother. Still, your considered argument hasn’t assuaged my doubts about what he’s doing in there – not the lack of constituency work but the damage he must be doing to the party and to his own media image. To imagine for one minute that his political views would be aired on C4 is madness. Tony Benn figured out the media twenty five years ago and George would’ve done well to consult him before going in – it’s called editing. The charity money going to Interpal is invaluable but again there is no way this is going to put Palestine on the mainstream agenda, even for 30 seconds. I’ll eat my hat if Interpal gets a single mention. So without any credible intervention by George on the popular political front (if there is such a thing), what is left? George playing pussy cat to Rula Lenska’s jumbo (yes, I did see it), or, even more disturbing, joining an angry mob of scapegoaters literally bullying Jodie Marsh into tears? I just can’t see the use of it. To show a human side? Well, that may have been a possibility if the house was populated by humans, instead of space cadets and super-egos. This fact could’ve come as no surprise to George – who else would put themselves into that situation but narcissists, egotists, and desperate self-publicists? Which begs the further question, which one is George? Now I feel more politically disenfranchised than ever before, perhaps because there was a moment when finally the left had a proper party again, with a proper leader. I know politics has to modernise, we live in a different world, politicians – leaders – have to win votes, support, attention by means attractive to a degenerate, brain-dead generation, but is this not just pandering? Does this challenge our apathy? Ken Livingston going back to Labour I can accept – it was his whole life, that is who he is. But this? I just don’t get it, RB.
comment added :: 12th January 2006, 23:39 GMT+01
jimmy sunshine made this comment,
And another thing – that damn frog on the left is f**king annoying. I’m sure it took me three times as long to write that last comment because of the distraction…
comment added :: 12th January 2006, 23:45 GMT+01
Red Baron made this comment,
Well, I can only concede that in terms of what will be the outcome I share your concerns jimmy my friend. But equally I am a cynic and long-time critic of the mass media and I have the luxury of sitting back and sniping whether or not it is constructive. A prominent member of a new political party with the hopes of large swathes of the radical left resting on them does not have the same luxury and perhaps must take risks in case such a gamble may finally chip a hole in the media blackout.
The lack of media coverage of Respect in general has been a frustrating factor, those of us broadly in support of the party have for a long time known that the establishment will not willingly allow such a challenge to its authority but how much ground can one gain by the preaching to the converted?

There is no doubt that George basks in the limelight, but that is exactly why he had enough of a public profile to be irresistable to the media who were expecting him to fail. After all Tam Dalyell, Alice Mahon, Jeremy Corbyn and George himself who had been long time opponents of New Labour had been long since marginalised to obscurity in terms of media coverage. Had Tam Dalyell a principled and eminently able politician of the left stood for Bethnal Green there would have been no media furore and he would probably have lost.

Jodie Marsh is more a product of the vacuous celebrity society rather than the embodiment of it but I think were I locked in a house with her I might well be inclined to verbally knock seven shades of shite out of her!

I agree my faith has been shaken, but one must remember that Respect remains the only show in town. I still have severe doubts about Respect’s agenda to be left-wing enough for my mind but I am mindful of the collapse of the Socialist Alliance which brought much damage to the left in general and its ability to work together.

The disenfranchisement is one of the greatest weapons of the current establishment, to breed despair and apathy and perpetuate that there is no other way and one person cannot make a difference. I do not know the answer mate, all I can think of to do for the moment is to keep in close touch with others who, like me, believe that the current system is bullshit and cannot be allowed to continue unfettered.

I have through chance managed to gain an education and a roof over my head and food in the fridge, there are many who through no fault of their own were less fortunate, if I do not fight for them, those even less powerful than I am, who the hell is going to?

comment added :: 13th January 2006, 00:11 GMT+01 :: http://redbaron.blog-city.com/
Pimme made this comment,
I never watched Big Brother in America. There was even a local guy on once, but that still didn’t entice me.
-Redbaron responds – I think that’s the safest way to manage it. On the whole you never missed much, as anthropological observation the first series was interesting but that was the full extent of it really.-

comment added :: 13th January 2006, 02:28 GMT+01 :: http://pimme.blog-city.com
Glasgow Dave made this comment,
I admit I was probably a little hasty in judging George Galloway on work as an MP although from what I have read he does not attend many commons votes and does not ask many questions. Surely he was elected and was being paid to represent his constitents in Parliament not just locally.
According to the http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/ george_galloway/bethnal_green_and_bow#votingrecord , quoted on on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Galloway “Since being elected in 2005, his participation rate has remained low. At the end of 2005 he had participated in only 15% of votes in the House of Commons since the general election, placing him 634 out of 645 MPs – of the MPs below him in the rankings, five are Sinn Fein members who have an abstentionist policy towards taking their seats, three are the speaker and deputy speakers and therefore ineligible to vote, two have died since the election.” Which according to my maths makes it that 98% of MPs vote more often than him, seems you were right about my statistics, they were way out. As for it being recess, according to the House of Commons website recess ended on the 9th of January. I have not been to Bethnal Green but don’t forgot GG was a Glasgow MP for many years. I have not attacked Tony Blair on this site or any other I visit because thankfully very few are vociforous supporters of the PM. I am not saying that George Galloway was the only bad MP he is just one of many

I accept I am biased against George Galloway because experiences that close family members have had with him. My father was an active member of the War on Want charity, that was the charity George Galloway charged £21000 for expenses in one year (85-86 a lot of money in those days)of which he paid back £1720 due to contested expenses http: //www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/20 03/04/24/ngall124.xml Oh and I didn’t like his praise for Saddam Hussein or his friendship with Tariq Aziz.

By the way I’m not a Labour supporter,I do not like Tony Blair or David Cameron, I did not support the war

-Redbaron responds – I would be very careful basing any argument on the statistics at theyworkforyou.com, the statistics can be misleading, not intentionally but as I found in the case of my own MP one has to be rather careful on the interpretation.

For Independent MPs or members of very small parties there is often far more good that can be done for constituency members in the constituency rather than attending a series of meaningless votes by a government that still holds a large enough majority to generally steamroller anything through. One could argue the pros and cons of national versus local politics but ultimately you are likely to either favour one or the other. You actually orignally said that he was in the 5% of MPs not working for his constituents and not what you have now changed your story to that he is in the 2% not voting in the House of Commons, there is a huge difference in those 2 statements.

I cannot obviously comment on the family dealings you have had with him as I don’t know the facts but as to the Iraq issue one must bear in mind many people were “friends” of Iraq including the Americans, Rumsfeld has visited Saddam more times than George. Many people on the left retained links with the Soviet Union in the vain hope that it may still be the saviour of socialism. Remember the Ba’ath party’s full title is the Ba’ath Socialist Party. Do you offer the same criticism for those in support of the current Burmese administration, or Pinochet or Suharto. Have you castigated the war criminals Bush and Blair or is it merely an intent to pursue a personal agenda?

Regardless of any of this to allow what is a cogent message to be diluted because of a personality or personalities that one disagrees with vexes me greatly because it plays into the hands of the apathy makers and that’s how we are in this mess in the first place. It is all very well to be against the war(s) but if you yourself do nothing about it other than the occasional snipe at those who are standing up to it, it undermines the credibility of your critique somewhat. I would very much like a proper revolutionary left-wing party that is faceless in terms of the public profile of those within but that hasn’t happened since 1902 and isn’t likely to happen again for a while one suspects. Let’s talk about politics not personalities.-

comment added :: 13th January 2006, 12:37 GMT+01 :: http://glasgowdave.blog-city.com
Jimmy Sunshine made this comment,
On Jodie Marsh: http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,16854 98,00.html#article_continue
-Redbaron responds – yes I read the article, one musn’t forget the Germaine herself, generally regarded as someone with more than a modicum of intelligence elected herself to go into the Big Brother house even if she left it some time later. I would not question her judgement of the events but I would question whether or not she has seen an accurate reflection of everything that has gone on in the house since Channel 4’s editing has been something akin to a Sweeney Todd haircut. To produce footage showing strife, bullying and disharmony is sensationalist and exactly what the programers want and the viewers expect, they are being shown the physical and mental titilation they crave and the producers will ensure that this does not get contaminated by anything so high-brow as politics.

comment added :: 13th January 2006, 16:08 GMT+01