Dear all

On a personal level I’ve always found George Galloway to be engaging company. We’ve had our run ins, but always parted as, well, maybe not friends, but… I remember one particularly feisty encounter on his Mother of all Talk Shows programme on a Friday night on talkSport back in the day. He had booked me to talk about Margaret Thatcher on a Thatcher related anniversary. Anyway, off we went and it was all perfectly amicable, until he launched on a five minute monologue on how evil she was. I kept trying to interrupt but I eventually worked out he had faded out my microphone. So when he at last finished I decided not to speak. “Iain, what do you think of that?” he asked, with obvious pride in his voice. I said nothing. “Iain, are you there?” he pleaded. “Oh, so you want me to speak, do you? I always thought the idea of an interview was for you to ask me questions, I answer them and then you come back!” He exploded. “Don’t you dare tell me how to run my radio show,” he fulminated. And it descended from there.

In my first few years on LBC he was a regular guest, and even presented the odd programme. He is without doubt a consummate broadcaster. I liked listening to him. But somewhere along the line he’s descended into the populist gutter. He’s always been away with the fairies on Israel but has now become, well, I shall be careful what I say as he can be very litigious. Suffice it to say that his deputy, the former Labour MP Chris Williamson, has said that Israel should not exist, and I’ve not heard Galloway disown him for it. He might as well be known as the Member for Palestine North, as I doubt whether he’ll put in the hardyards as the MP for Rochdale. He’s a carpetbagger who delights in exploiting local tensions wherever he goes. Tower Hamlets, Bradford, Rochdale, they’re all the same to him – merely a vehicle to stoke his gigantic ego.

However, George Galloway is not to be underestimated. He could become a real thorn in Keir Starmer’s side. Just as Reform UK could help boost the size of a Labour majority by leeching votes of the Tories, Galloway is seeking to replicate their strategy on the left. He’s concentrating on fighting 59 seats, all, coincidentally of course, with a large muslim population. His Workers Party (whose name must be a self-deprecating joke given Galloways preferences for all things luxury) won’t win any seats at the election, apart possibly/probably from Rochdale, but it could deprive Labour of 10-20 seats by splitting the left of centre vote.

And Keir Starmer has only himself to blame.

One more thing, It’s a mystery to me why the LibDems put no effort into this by election whatsoever, and came fourth. After all, this was a seat they won in a 1972 by election, won by, ahem, Cyril Smith. He and Liz Lynne represented it until 1997 and then Paul Rowan won it back in 2005. So with that kind of track record, and them having won by election after by election in this parliament, you might have expected the to throw the kitchen sink at it this time, especially when the Labour candidate was ejected. The could play the ceasefire card and point to their opposition to the Iraq war. So why didn’t they do it? I’m at a loss to explain it.