If you follow me on Twitter, you know I am normally a huge fan of the BBC Question Time watchalong on Twitter: even when I detest one, some, or all of the panel. (Given the panel still unfortunately includes David Dimbleby, one man is invariably detestable.)
Tweeting / reading Twitter #BBCqt while watching BBC Question Time turns it from a solitary anger to a group sport.
Last Thursday I switched on the tv a few moments late, and George Galloway was speaking. He came to the end of whatever he had to say, and the audience cheered him.
As Owen Jones describes it in the Independent:
And yet he was met with repeated, resounding applause from the audience. The answer is clear. 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.
Owen Jones did specify in his second paragraph that
He has made unacceptable comments about rape – “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion” – that repulsed virtually everybody.
Repulsion is a strong word. I detest (for example) Iain Duncan Smith, but I watched Question Time when he was on and relished every minute of the pounding he got from Owen Jones. I detest Brian Souter, and think that the BBC should have thought twice and thought again before inviting the biggest homophobic bigot in Scotland to be on their panel the week of the equal marriage vote – even if he is also the SNP’s biggest single donor. But I watched Question Time, and was sorry he didn’t get more of a pounding from the panel than he did from the audience.
I am repelled by George Galloway. I switched the TV off and decided I could do without watching Question Time for one week.
Owen Jones does not find Gorgeous George repulsive, and thought so little of his rape apologism that he could bracket it between an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother and comments made about Saddam Hussein:
It is only partly because he is afflicted with the disease of charismatic British left-wing political figures, which is to provide ample self-destructive material to feed his many enemies. He was mocked for a largely disastrous appearance on Celebrity Big Brother. He has made unacceptable comments about rape – “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion” – that repulsed virtually everybody. 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).
Owen Jones is dead right on one thing:
When you start using the language of your opponent, you have lost. This is exactly what several senior Labour politicians have a habit of doing. The “debate” on the welfare state is a classic example. Management-consultants-turned-politicians like Liam Byrne accept political goalposts set by the Right, de facto accepting the “scrounger” or “skiver” caricatures, leaving them playing on territory where the Tories will always win.
The debate over George Galloway is a debate whether women are included in the lefty vision of social justice or we are not.
To George Galloway, we are not included: he sees us as useful receptacles. I find this repulsive. Owen Jones plainly doesn’t: he watched. (I have no idea who did and who didn’t, and I’m not prejudging those who did: everyone decides for themselves what their levels of repulsion are.)
But this is also a far more serious issue than any question of Galloway dressing up as a cat on CBB, or any comments he may have made about the Arab dictators whom – as Jones rightly notes – he may have praised but “hasn’t sold them arms, funded them or even been paid by them”. George Galloway’s indifference to women is epitomised by his failure to speak with the leader of his party after she had condemned his rape-apologist comments. If Galloway thinks so little of women he can’t even bring himself to treat the leader of his own party as someone whose opinion he has to treat with respect, what do we make of his mouthing lefty views?
To everyone who understands it is profoundly insulting and disquieting even to discuss if women are included in the lefty vision of social justice, if it can even be a point for discussion that social justice can be accomplished as a men-only goal – well, to those of us on that side, it is impossible to bring up George Galloway the rape apologist without noting that whatever Galloway says about social justice issues, he’s a sexist man who thinks social justice is for men: nothing he says should be taken seriously, no matter how good an orator he may be.
And this, I think, is what Owen Jones simply doesn’t get. Why should he? He is included in Galloway’s vision of social justice: he is not, to Galloway, merely a receptacle whose views on use needn’t be consulted. Owen Jones was free to enjoy Galloway’s rhetoric on Thursday night: I was not. I was repulsed.
(I have stood in enough peace demos in 2003 when Galloway was an invited speaker to know that however good an orator George Galloway is when he assumes he is speaking to his equals – US Congress, Parliament, David Dimbleby – he is an appallingly dull speaker when talking over our heads.)