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George Galloway and the Politics of Rape: A Political Obituary?

Posted: 26/08/2012 01:16

"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."

These are the words that may come to adorn George Galloway's political grave. After a long and distinguished career of courting controversy and splitting audiences it looks like he may have finally fallen into the political gutter once and for all. His tasteless and reactionary comments have been quite rightfully condemned by almost every single anti rape charity in the country and the leader of his own political party. The most unfortunate part of the whole saga is the fact that in a hurried statement and a series of insulting Tweets he has stuck to his position and doesn't appear to have learnt anything from it.

Even the strongest defenders of Julian Assange should have been shaking their heads in despair as the artist formally known as Gorgeous George described the idea of a man having sex with a woman who is sleeping as merely being "bad sexual etiquette" that was "not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it." Even if one believes that the specific allegations against Julian Assange are part of a US led smear then it would be very hard, if not impossible, for anyone with any sense to conclude that the scenario painted by Galloway could possibly constitute anything other than rape.

Galloway is not the only politician to have been guilty of trivialising rape, but he is certainly the first high profile left wing figurehead to have caused such a rupture. Unfortunately the Assange debate has revealed some extremely reactionary views from people I would have expected to know better. One example is Tony Benn, who referred to the charges against Assange as relating to "a non-consensual relationship" which he inexplicably said was "very different from rape." He then trivialised the matter by adding that it is said that Julian Assange didn't use a condom, "and if that was the definition of rape then a lot of people in this country would be guilty of rape on a daily basis." Similarly, the producer of Galloway's controversial podcast taunted one critic by saying "rape is something you will never have to worry about... judging on your picture."

On a personal note I have always had a soft spot for Galloway, and, despite harbouring serious reservations about his his history of fawning over tyrants, I've generally defended him and have tended to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even when I've acknowledged his many flaws it's been within the context of also recognising is talents and strengths. He's a man who has always been capable of reaching great political highs before plummeting to great depths. This was evident in 2005 when he followed his stunning Senate appearance with an embarrassing stint in the Big Brother house, and it's happened again with his recent comments coming hot on the heels of one of the most unexpected by-election victories in British history.

Galloway may have been written off before, but he has always shown an incredible ability to make political comebacks, and that is because there will always be a constituency for his often eloquent rhetorical style and his brand of traditional Labour politics, but will that constituency see him through this? As one of the few MPs in Britain to consistently oppose privatisation, foreign interventions, nuclear weapons and austerity cuts he would definitely be a loss to the parliament, although I hope the demand for these policies isn't specific to the messenger. The point is that no amount of good work should ever make it acceptable for anyone, least of all a politician, to demean and diminish sexual crimes and rape victims. It's a sad incitement of our political culture that there are still a large number of people who blame victims for the crimes that are commited against them, and it's sad to find out that Galloway is one of them. What he said was ignorant, misogynistic and cruel, and for a lot of us it's been the staw that's broke the camall's back. Will it be the beginning of the end of his political life? Quite possibly, and if not then I would be inclined to ask why not.

 

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