So here we go again: another week and another attack on Respect MP George Galloway; this time over the personal meeting it has been revealed he had with Labour leader Ed Miliband a few weeks ago.
The original story appeared in the Daily Mail in the form of a criticism of 'Red Ed' for daring to meet with Galloway, the bête noire of the political establishment and cosy Westminster consensus. The thrust of the Mail story is that the purpose of the meeting was to pave the way the MP for Bradford West's readmission into the party he was forced out of back in 2003 over his opposition to the war on Iraq. George Galloway, it should be recalled, was a member of the Labour Party for over 30 years prior to his expulsion.
There followed, predictably, a backlash from certain quarters of the Labour Party, with adjectives such as 'unacceptable', 'traitor', 'untouchable', and so on deployed to discredit the Respect MP. Someone by the name of Mark Hughes from the Labour supporting blog, Labour List, wrote a piece for the Guardian in which he opines
'Ed Miliband knew exactly what he was inviting into his office that day. And while a small part of me admires his hard-headed pragmatism and determination to win a crucial Commons vote, a larger part of me thinks - it's Galloway, what were you thinking, Ed? That man - after everything he has said and done - doesn't even deserve your courtesy.'
Let's be clear about something. One of the very few of the nation's MPs who can walk through the Commons with his head held high is George Galloway. Consistently, and unwaveringly, this is a man who speaks truth to power, and has done regardless of any personal cost to himself. Whether it is his stance on illegal and immoral wars in the Middle East, the suffering of the Palestinian people, the anathematization of the Muslim community here at home, or his refusal to abandon real Labour values of social and economic justice for the poor and working people, he continues to stand head and shoulders above his peers, deservedly gaining an international reputation that ensures he speaks to packed out audiences wherever he appears in this country and overseas.
This, in truth, is the reason for the disdain in which he his held by the assorted careerists, sell outs, and Tory-lite opportunists that have defenestrated the Labour Party of everything it was formed to represent since Tony Blair assumed the leadership back in 1994.
Who could argue that Galloway's recent intervention in one of the most shameful acts of political cowardice ever witnessed in this country - namely the manner in which the current Labour leadership acquiesced in the unprecedented recall of Parliament to pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher after her death and the £10 million of taxpayers' money that was spent on a state funeral - was exemplary and an inspiration to the millions of people in this country who despise everything Thatcher stood for and whose voices would not have been heard otherwise?
Furthermore the repeated ad hominem attacks directed at him over his meetings and dealings with former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and current Syrian president Bashir al-Assad see obfuscation raised to the level of art.
In his attempt to ease the suffering of millions of Iraqis being punished by a sanctions regime that was medieval in scope and barbaric in effect - responsible for the premature deaths of 2 million human beings, half a million of those children - George Galloway met with Saddam Hussein in the context of the Mariam Appeal, which he spearheaded to highlight what US senator David Bonior described at the time as 'infanticide masquerading as policy.' Further meetings with the Iraqi leader were held in an attempt to persuade him to allow US inspectors into the country to forestall a war which, as it turned out, took place to devastating effect, leaving a broken society and a mountain of bodies in its wake. Which right thinking person in the country now disagrees that Tony Blair took the nation to war on the false premise that Iraq possessed WMD? And who could now disagree that the net result of the war unleashed on Iraq has been disastrous, both for the Iraqi people slaughtered, maimed, and left traumatised and impoverished, and the families of those British troops who paid with their lives, limbs, and/or mental health and well being?
This is the disaster which George Galloway, well nigh alone in the Commons at the time, extended himself in opposing, and which the current Labour leadership and its supporters believe can be swept under the carpet as a 'mistake' - on the same metaphorical level perhaps as misplacing a few pencils from the stationary cupboard, or spilling a cup of coffee on the carpet of Ed Miliband's office.
When it comes to Assad, this is the man who once occupied a spare room at Buckingham Palace on an official visit to Britain in 2002, when he was greeted by the then Labour leadership, prompting the Syrian leader to speak of his 'warm personal relations' with Tony Blair.
Galloway's relations with Assad were conducted with the objective of aiding the plight of the Palestinians, who were then and continue to suffer the depredations of a decades-long Israeli occupation in violation of international law and multiple United Nations resolutions. As with the Mariam Appeal, Galloway was not satisfied with merely marching, petitioning, and making speeches. Instead he decided to intervene directly by organising not one, not two, but five humanitarian aid convoys to Gaza in defiance of a siege that had reduced 1.5 million men, women, and children to the de facto status of inmates of an open prison.
Does anyone with an ounce of decency think that delivering humanitarian aid to a half starved people can be described as anything other than a principled act of human solidarity? And given that this aid had to be transported through a variety of countries en route, including Syria, and given that you have to deal with the regimes and governments that exist in this world, and not those we might prefer to exist, how else was George Galloway to effect the passage of this aid through those countries without first establishing positive relations with their respective governments?
The Labour Party of Attlee, Bevan, Morrison and Cripps is no more. In its place is a party that has betrayed its values and traditions, along with the millions it was formed to represent in the process.
Being scorned by such a party can only be a badge of honour.