George Galloway, Kate Hudson, the Respect Party . . . and me

So Kate Hudson has withdrawn from the November by-election in  November, saying that “I cannot in all conscience, stand as candidate for a party whose only MP has made unacceptable and un-retracted statements about the nature of rape. “ I’ll confess it here and now, I was deeply disturbed by what George Galloway had to say on this issue, and made my feelings clear in a letter published in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus (see below).

However, Respect is either an important organisation that is changing the character of British politics, or it is a personal bandwagon for one single, charismatic leader. If the latter, I certainly would not have joined it, though given the parlous state of Bradford Politics at this time, where a Lab-Con-Dem establishment is turning the city into a wasteland, I would have voted for them.

In the mid 1980s I campaigned actively for the miners in their struggle with Thatcher’s attack on their industry, but when Arthur Scargill left the Labour Party and formed the Socialist Labour Party I did not feel inclined to join him, though I myself had run into problems with the Labour establishment, while chair of Bradford South Constituency Labour Party, for organising fund-raising events for Ken Livingstone when he stood against the “official” Labour candidate in London’s mayoral elections. (And I supported Ken in that successful campaign, despite having strong reservations about his political positions on a number of issues, having known him when I lived in London.)

George Galloway and I do not see eye to eye on a number of issues. We first fell out, publicly, when I expressed my scepticism about the 9/11 attacks, which I believe to have been a “false flag” dirty tricks scenario in order to further the New American Century project. Having subsequently spoken on the issue with the former caretaker of the World Trade Center, who offered to give evidence to the 9/11 commission but was not called, my only scepticism is that I don’t see how the people who pull the political strings in USA could be that clever.

Subsequently, Mr Galloway denounced the Abu Graib torturer, Lynndie England, as “trailer trash”. Now I have lived in a trailer in the past, and have a US relative who still does, but the main thing was that I thought, and still do, that it ill befits a radical politician to use a person’s social standing as a stick to beat them with. It is quite clear that Ms England was a deeply disturbed human being, who deserves as much sympathy as her victims, all being victimised by a cold and heartless system.

Now, following his remarks about rape, Mr Galloway then managed to upset his disabled supporters by referring to a critic as a “window licker”. Now, I must confess that while, as a recovering alcoholic I am myself (sort of) disabled, though not in the sense the term is used by the health authorities, and my wife has Parkinson’s, I have never come across this term.

I went on the Internet, where I found the following definition:

(derogatory) ~ sl.: euphemism for a person of mentally challenged status. Etymology: C20 – Derived from the stereotyped behaviour of mentally challenged people, observed to place their open mouths into prolongued contact with the external windows of public or private transport on which they are seated.

It is offensive and wrong to name a person people who is mentally challenged a ‘window licker’ or a ‘retard’.

When challenged on this abusive terminology, Mr Galloway said perhaps he should have used the term “moron”.

But you don’t get it, do you, George? To use any reference to someone’s mental health problems in an abusive manner is totally unacceptable. I’d call you an idiot if that didn’t also refer to your mental tendency to get things wrong.

So George Galloway is a human being who needs to guard his tongue before he drops into what may seem in the heat of the moment to be colourfully populist speech patterns. He is, in short, far from infallible. As are we all, myself more than most.

But his record since getting elected puts to shame those he challenged and won. His record stands for itself. And he has barely got his bum on the Parliamentary benches.

But if he had turned out to be a total failure, would that mean that, if asked, I shouldn’t stand for Respect in any future election, that I shouldn’t continue to campaign within it for all the reasons that caused me to join the party during the Bradford by-election? I don’t think so, because any political movement has to be more than the sum of its parts. And George Galloway is just one of the parts in our party.

Which takes me back to Kate Hudson’s statement. Having joined other leading Respect members in criticising George Galloway’s remarks, she expresses support for Respect and what it stands for:

I am in no doubt that the Respect Party has the right policies to meet the challenges facing Britain today, and that its redistributive anti-austerity and pro-investment platform is exactly what is needed to turn around Britain’s failing economy and meet the needs of Britain’s population. . .

I will continue to work within the Respect Party to ensure that our values and principles with regard to women’s rights match up to the Party’s – and George Galloway’s – outstanding record in these other areas. . .

The struggle for a left politics based on justice and equality, where society is organised to meet the needs of the many, will continue.

Well then, Kate, wouldn’t it be better for you to continue to fight to further those politics in Parliament, however you might disagree with the statements of any other members, however charismatic and unfortunate they may be?

But then I can’t avoid remembering how the Stop the War Coalition, of which Ms Hudson was (and as far as I know still is) a leading member, managed to lead the millions who marched against the Iraq war away from direct confrontation with Tony Blair’s “New” Labour colonialist agenda. We could have blocked Whitehall, but STW stewards were running up and down the column telling people not to sit down there. There were calls to occupy the motorways and block the arteries of aggression, but in fact there was no strategy to prevent the war planes from taking off.

I have supported STW to this day, despite these reservations on my part, but I can’t help recalling them when such a prominent member takes such an opportunist and confused position.

I believe Kate Hudson is a good woman, though I don’t always agree with her. I feel the same about George Galloway. Instead of fighting among ourselves, shouldn’t we just get down and get on with the continuing struggle?

I believe we should.

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What George Galloway actually said:

You decide what this is about. If you can’t, you probably ought to be watching CBBC.

What I am going to say is going to be controversial, because somebody has to say this. A reign of intellectual terror has descended on this subject. . .

Let me tell you, I think that Julian Assange’s personal sexual behaviour is something sordid, disgusting, and I condemn it. But even taken at its worst, the allegations made against him by the two women – and I’m not even going into their political connections, I’m going to leave that for others and for another day. I’m going to leave the fact that one, maybe both, of his accusers have the strangest of links to the strangest of people, organisations and states, I’m going to leave that entirely aside.

Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100 per cent true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don’t constitute rape. At least not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it. And somebody has to say this.

Let’s take woman A. Woman A met Julian Assange, invited him back to her flat, gave him dinner, went to bed with him, had consensual sex with him. Claims that she woke up to him having sex with her again. This is something which can happen, you know.

I mean not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion. Some people believe that when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes, and have sex with them and then fall asleep, you’re already in the sex game with them.

It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, “do you mind if I do it again?”. It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning. . .

I don’t believe either of those women, I don’t believe either of these stories.
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My letter (also signed by my wife) to the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, on the Assange-“rape”-Galloway affair:

George Galloway’s typically witty response to the storm over his remarks on rape is completely unacceptable. We commend to George a simple four-word response: “Sorry, I was wrong”.

Not only are his remarks offensive in themselves, but by this lapse of judgement he has seriously damaged Respect’s work in defence of women’s rights, and given a hell-sent opportunity for the dinosaurs of the political establishment to emerge from hiding.

The fact that the Respect leadership, both locally and nationally, have dissociated themselves from what he said is proof that the party is more than just a one-man band. Like all of us, George Galloway is far from being infallible, and is quite capable of getting it wrong, on occasion. (One thinks of his deeply embarrassing presence on TV’s Big Brother as another example of this.)

It would be good if those shedding crocodile tears over this issue were to be as proactive in opposing the closure of BME women’s domestic abuse projects like SODASSA and Anah which George Galloway has been in the forefront of the campaign to keep them going.
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Here is Kate Hudson’s announcement of her retirement from the Manchester by-election:

It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to stand down as Respect Party candidate for the Manchester Central by-election. This has been a difficult decision to make because I am in no doubt that the Respect Party has the right policies to meet the challenges facing Britain today, and that its redistributive anti-austerity and pro-investment platform is exactly what is needed to turn around Britain’s failing economy and meet the needs of Britain’s population. Political events across Europe demonstrate that Respect is not alone in working to fill the political space vacated by Labour and its sister social democrat parties as they have moved to the right and embraced neo-liberalism, from Greece to France and now Holland.

However, I cannot in all conscience, stand as candidate for a party whose only MP has made unacceptable and un-retracted statements about the nature of rape. To continue as Respect Party candidate in this situation, no matter how much I object to and oppose his statements personally, would be in effect to condone what he has said. That is something I am not prepared to do.

I stand by the position taken by Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob, who has stated:

“Let me be clear, as a politician and as a woman. Rape occurs when a woman has not consented to sex. George Galloway’s comments on what constitutes rape are deeply disappointing and wrong.

“There are many political issues entwined in the case of Julian Assange. These issues cannot be used to diminish in any way the seriousness of any allegations against him. Any individual accused of a crime, sexual or otherwise, is innocent until proven guilty. By the same token, any individual who believes themselves to be a victim has a right to have their grievances heard in a fair manner and not have their allegations belittled or dismissed. This is the cornerstone of justice.”

Unfortunately George Galloway’s subsequent clarification of his remarks was totally inadequate.

To continue to represent the Respect Party in this context does not accord with my political principles, which include the continuing struggle for justice and respect for women, as well as fighting against austerity, war and racism. I will continue to work within the Respect Party to ensure that our values and principles with regard to women’s rights match up to the Party’s – and George Galloway’s – outstanding record in these other areas.

I would like to thank our members and supporters in Manchester and across the country for the strong support extended to the Manchester Central campaign. The struggle for a left politics based on justice and equality, where society is organised to meet the needs of the many, will continue.

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About Karl Dallas

Former BBC and IRN presenter, presenter of jazz, classical, movie and talk shows on Bradford Community Broadcasting, editor and presenter of VideoCaroline, "the best TV over the Seven Seas".
This entry was posted in campaigning, George Galloway, Respect and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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