I have been prompted to reread Owen Jones’s article on George Galloway, after seeing some rather barbed exchanges between him and his critics. Rob Marchant, who said it was a bizarre piece, apologizing for Galloway, was informed by Jones that he was ‘smug and not very bright’. Oliver Kamm was also dismissed as ‘not worth debating’, after he suggested that Jones was being far too soft on GG. Jones complained at one point that his critics wouldn’t be satisfied unless he denounced Galloway as the antichrist.
So – was Jones right to be angered by his critics? Would a casual reader agree with Jones’s own assessment of his piece as an unequivocal condemnation of Galloway? I was amused by the rather distracting headline, not chosen by the author I assume, which could be taken to imply that George Galloway is right wing:
The Left should learn about plain speaking from George Galloway: The Right is better at communicating because it uses stories so much
The first sentence of the actual article states:
No politician is as demonised or as despised by the political and media establishment as George Galloway.
To me this seems like the prelude to a ‘but’. The word ‘demonised’ generally implies unfair criticism. This is not borne out by what follows – Jones does indeed condemn Galloway’s comments on rape and also his fondness for dictators. However the second point is qualified somewhat:
He has made apparently sympathetic remarks about brutal dictators (although, unlike some of his detractors, he hasn’t sold them arms, funded them or even been paid by them).
Note that ‘apparently’. And does he not get paid for appearing on Press TV then? But this is the bit which I found particularly interesting:
A few weeks ago, he stood in Parliament to demand David Cameron explain why Britain was apparently intervening to save Mali from Islamist thugs, when it was supporting very similar groups in Syria. “Wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world,” the Prime Minister spat back, “he will have the support of [Galloway].” All sides of the House roared their approval: and so the political elite closed ranks against a man sent by the people of Bradford to express their disgust with the Westminster club.
If I read this out of context I would say this was written by a supporter of Galloway’s, and an opponent of the ‘political elite’. And I wouldn’t, in fact, have a problem if Owen Jones thought Galloway had a point on this occasion – it just seems odd that Jones is so adamant that his article is an unambiguous hatchet job on the man.
The main point of the article is to argue that the left needs to speak with more passion. Once again, this does not seem an unreasonable point:
Labour’s representative on the panel, Mary Creagh, spoke the language of the political elite – technocratic, stripped of passion, with too much jargon and management speak, with phrases like “direction of travel”. But Galloway offered direct, clear answers; he spoke eloquently, and with language that resonated with non-politicos; he had enthusiasm, conviction and – to borrow a Tony Benn phrase – said what he meant and meant what he said.
But, yet again, Jones writes in a way which suggests approval for Galloway – yes of course Jones condemns his comments on rape, but his disapproval for those comments seems expressed in far more muted terms than his appreciation for Galloway’s popular touch. I don’t point this out to suggest that Jones is not sincere on the issue of rape, but only to demonstrate that his defensive response to critics, his insistence that he condemns Galloway ‘unequivocally’, is (whatever he may have intended) unconvincing.