You’ll live forever George Galloway. The British politician, reality TV contestant, and pre-eminent Western defender of mass murdering Arab autocrats, lost another of his nine lives Friday along with his seat in parliament when he was defeated in the U.K.’s elections.
Not one to go gently, Galloway’s angry reaction gave up the secret of his immortality—apologize for nothing; in politics the truly shameless never die.
Before getting into the election fallout and what Galloway will do in his next life, a bit of retrospective on the immortal shamelessness that has carried him this far.
Galloway is part ideologue—a mix of Nasserite pan-Arab socialism and communist nostalgia, and part carnival barker at a slaughterhouse. He has publicly given money to both Hamas and Hezbollah in defiance of international sanctions, and accepted payment while shilling for murderous dictators like Saddam Hussein and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad when he’s not defending them for free.
Galloway is probably best known to Americans for his Congressional testimony in 2005 during an investigation into his financial ties to Saddam Hussein’s government.
He was accused of accepting money diverted from the UN run “Oil for Food” program, an initiative intended to offer Iraqis sanctions relief, through a charity he ran, which lobbied to lift sanctions on Iraq.
It was Galloway’s finest public performance. After upbraiding the assembled Congressman, Galloway “became a populist hero on the Left,” wrote Christopher Hitchens, who was engaged in a long running and bitter feud with Galloway, principally over the Iraq war.
Just a year later in 2006, while still a member of parliament, Galloway appeared on Britain’s Celebrity Big Brother. “Now would you like me to be the cat?” he asks on camera before getting on all fours, purring and licking milk out of a bowl.
So to understand Galloway, imagine a showman like Dennis Rodman but fond of North Korea’s government. Bad example. Like his friend Rodman, Galloway is also a self-appointed emissary for Pyongyang.
In an appearance on Iran’s Press TV in 2013, Galloway called North Korea courageous and praised its “cohesive, pristine actually, innocent culture. A culture that has not been penetrated by globalization and by Western mores and is very interesting to see.”
His public admiration for North Korea’s innocence came less than a month after the UN reported that more than a quarter of the country’s children were suffering from chronic malnutrition.
Despite all that—the support for terrorist groups and brutal dictators, the televised cat impersonation, as if appearing on a reality show weren’t disqualifying enough—Galloway survived. Characteristically un-chastened, he won a special election in 2012 to become the Respect Party MP from Bradford West.
He stayed in that seat until Friday.
After going out Thursday night trumpeting his certain win, Galloway was out Friday morning making his concession speech:
“I don’t begrudge the Labour members here their moment of celebration of course. But there will be others who are already celebrating: the venal, the vile, the racists and the Zionists will all be celebrating. The hyena can bounce on the lion’s grave but it can never be a lion and in any case, I’m not in my grave. As a matter of fact I’m going off now to plan the next campaign.”
Venal, vile, racist, Zionists. Oh my that’s an impressive run of linked adjectives and nouns. It’s not for nothing that the British invented the oxford comma. I hope at least that the reference to lions and hyenas triggered an image of Galloway the cat for everyone who heard or read his speech.
From that bit you’d think that Galloway was magnanimous towards his opponent, and only bothered by the celebrations of grubby moneychangers who were profiting from his loss. What’s that? Sorry, I meant Zionists profiting from his loss. In fact, Galloway’s generosity was only a defeated man’s rhetorical flourish.
His campaign against his Muslim feminist Labour party opponent Naz Shah was so dirty she singled him out in her own victory speech.
“I thank all my opponents, with the exception of one,” Shah said. “To Mr Galloway I say that your campaign demeaned our democracy, but personal attacks on me have not worked. The people of Bradford West have seen through this and you have been sent on your way.”
Here’s how Britain’s center-left newspaper The Independent described the race: “In one of the scrappiest campaigns of the election, the Respect candidate made repeated personal attacks on his Labour opponent Naz Shah. He promised it would be a ‘clean fight,’ but his supporters have been accused of beating up a Jewish journalist trying to report on a Respect rally—as well as leaving a dead crow on Ms Shah’s doorstep and smearing her reputation.”
The personal attacks included Galloway’s allegation that Shah, who was sent in her teens from Britain to her family’s home of Pakistan to escape her mother’s abusive partner, had lied about being forced into an arranged marriage at 15.
Galloway’s attempt to undermine Shah’s story, which she immediately refuted, hinged in part on the claim that she wasn’t 15 at all when she was married but in fact well into 16.
What’s next for Galloway? In the Guardian, one commentator says we shouldn’t see Galloway as finished at all: somehow, somewhere he will make a return.
There has been talk of him running for London Mayor, or the mayor of Tower Hamlets, the East London borough whose mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was recently booted from office, after a High Court judge found him guilty of a string of “corrupt and illegal practices.” In keeping with Galloway tradition, then, drama will most likely be attendant on whatever he does.
But first he has an appointment with the authorities himself. The Independent reports that his early tweets about exit poll results—which Galloway later deleted and may not have referenced a real poll—could be in violation of British law and were reported to the police on Thursday.