By Fatima Patel
8 March 2015
George Galloway, is a name that needs no introduction.
Since his landslide by-election win I had only met the Bradford West MP once during an interview over Kashmir in a crowded room with many other journalists and Respect
Party members. As a local constituent of Bradford West I was one of the few that voted against Galloway in the by-election as I felt he hasn’t been able to support my local business needs. In an exclusive one to one interview at his favourite eating place, Lahore’s George explains to me and my readers why he is the best man for the job of Member of Parliament for Bradford West. Could I be persuaded to vote for him in the next General Elections? Well I will hold that thought for now and let you decide on how good an MP for Bradford West Mr Galloway is.
You’ve called for action against BBC post your recent appearance on BBC Question Time that took place in Finchley after being attacked and heckled at when asked the question about anti-Semitterism. How are you feeling after the episode and what do you think making the complaints to BBC will achieve?
I think I came out well ahead from the programme, so my complaints are not about what the impact has been on me. I think it has benefitted me personally and also the Palestinian argument which I have for long forty years advocated. So that’s not the reason for complaining. The reason for complaining is that it could have turned out very differently, if it had not been me there but someone else. If I hadn’t performed as I did, the effect would have been very different and we can’t allow this by a publicly funded broadcaster. The publicly funded broadcaster has duties and responsibilities and they did not fulfill them. First of all the audience selection was ludicrously skewed. It is not true that Finchley is an overwhelmingly Jewish area, as we keep reading. Only 16 per cent of the borough is Jewish, which is almost the same as the Muslims, who are less than two per cent behind, so how come there were no visibly Muslim people in the audience? But a very large number of visibly Jewish people, who were making their Jewishness very clear and obvious I know personally several people who are Muslims, or Palestinians, or Respect supporters who were told they could not get a place in the audience even though they applied immediately after I was booked for the show. So it was clearly ludicrously skewed and an unrepresentative audience. Secondly the question asked was not to the question that was tabled. It was ‘What do you think of the rise of anti- Semitism in the Britain?’ Full stop! Now that would have been a very different discussion, in fact he asked ‘What do you think of the rise of anti-Semitism in Britain and do you think a member of the panel bears a degree of responsibility for that? This then made it a trial of me instead of an objective debate. So it was very unfair.
You are an extremely gifted orator and have done very well when it comes to challenging the Governments foreign and defence policy. You have voted very strongly against the Iraq War, very strongly against the use of military forces in combat operations overseas. Yet when it comes to Welfare Benefits you’ve not voted for example, you have never voted on raising Welfare benefits. Have never voted on paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability. Have never voted on making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support. These are fairly important issues for your constituents. What do you have to say?
Well, it’s been nearly ten years since I was able to vote regularly because in the House of Commons you can only vote for the Governments motion or the Leader of the oppositions amendment or vice versa and I seldom agree with either, the Prime Ministers motion or the Leader of the oppositions amendment. So for example, I give you this as a theoretical example. If the Government proposes cutting child benefit by X and the leader of the opposition said no let’s just cut it by Y I can vote for neither, the Prime Ministers motions or the opposition Leaders amendment, because I don’t agree with cutting child benefit at all. And so you shouldn’t measure my role in Parliament by how I vote, although sometimes I do vote, on the very important issues because sometimes my vote is important.
So how can we measure what you’re doing? Accountability is important You can measure it instead by what I say and do, by what I campaign on. For example I didn’t just vote on homelessness I sold the BIG ISSUE on the streets in support of the homeless and so on. You should also measure it by the motions that I myself put down in Parliament. I have proposed more motions in Parliament than all of the Bradford District MPs put together. I have tabled more motions in Parliament than any other Member of Parliament in the whole of Britain and that’s what you should measure. What I myself am proposing not how or what I do not vote over two political leaders of whom neither of them I agree with.
So much has been said about your income outside of Parliament. You have the second largest earnings after Gordon Brown. How do you feel, when people say prior to becoming MP for Bradford your income was hardly the approx £300k you currently earn and therefore it seems you are only wanting to be re-elected so you can maintain your income.
The income has nothing to do with Parliament. You only know about my income because I declare it, unlike others. Secondly, I assure you that I would still be presenting a programme on RT TV whether I was a Member of Parliament or not. In fact I have no doubt that I could present more programmes and earn far more money if I wasn’t a Member of Parliament.
Do people think I should present television programmes for nothing? Who would benefit from that, will the money be distributed to the homeless or kept by my employer? So this is a foolish and petty line of attack.
When you came to Bradford one of the promises you made was to bring Middle East investment. Is that going to materialise?
Well I did actually try to do it. But it was rebuffed. I proposed to the now departed Chief Executive that we put together a city investment initiative and that we go as a group to the Gulf and seek investors. They were not interested because they didn’t want anything well to reflect on me. I proposed to the owners of the Bradford City Football Club, that I could find them a buyer, but they did not want to sell. To be fair to them though they have done a fantastic job themselves without a buyer. So you can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink.
Some say you are the MP for the Muslims. What’s your take on this?
No I am the MP for everybody. That doesn’t mean I will neglect a section of the community that has very special problems and very specific interests. However, of the cases that I dealt with (I thought that you would ask this, so these are direct figures from my surgery this morning (Saturday 7 February)) 25 per cent of the surgery cases this morning were Muslims, 25 per cent were non-Muslim Indians and 50 per cent of my surgery cases this morning (It’s not the same every week, so I don’t want to mislead you) were White English non-Muslims. These are today’s cases, so it’s simply not true.
There are rumours that you and Labour have done a deal. You supported the No vote in Scotland and not stand as London Mayor in return Labour would field in a weak candidate in Bradford West. Is there any credence to these rumours?
As conspiracy theories go that is pretty outlandish. I have supported and opposed separation of Scotland all my life. It would have been far far better for me, to not have got involved in the Scottish referendum. Trust me I have lost many friends, I bear a lot of scars and I had to travel thousands of miles to fight that campaign. I did it because that’s my belief that breaking up a small country is a bad idea. In general I am against separatism.
Sometimes it is unavoidable. But in general I am against it. I am against it in Pakistan and am against it in India, in Cyprus and so on. So what I did with the Scottish referendum I did because I believed in it. The idea that I need to do a deal with Labour so that they put up a weak candidate, supposes that they have a strong candidate in the first place. If he supposes that I couldn’t beat any Labour candidate but of these are not right. I am absolutely convinced that there is no Labour candidate that they could have put up that would have defeated me. So the whole thing falls at the first hurdle. I haven’t heard that particular rumour, but it is a particularly extraordinary one. But am grateful for the confirmation that the candidate that they are going to put up will be weak!
You seem to have made up with your former opponent Councillor Imran Hussain’s father, people could be lead to believe that deals are going on there too for you to maintain your seat in West, and Imran is supported in East.
Again that is nonsense, because we might ourselves have a candidate for Bradford East and if we do I will be supporting that candidate. We haven’t made a final decision on whether to stand in Bradford East. So you might get a surprise.
What do you think your margin of victory in West will be in the coming elections?
More than 50 per cent.
How do you rate your chances against your opponents? Conservatives, Green, Ukip?
I have never met the Conservative candidate I know nothing about him. Bradford West is one of the poorest constituencies in the country so there’s no doubt that any Conservative candidate would do well. The main threat to me is Ukip as they are the main threat to Labour in Bradford South. Ukip will get a lot of votes.
They will get them from a surprising variety of people a considerable number of White Labour supporters in the past will vote for Ukip and because Ukip have chosen an Asian candidate against me, he will get some Asians voting for him and he seems quite a lively fellow.
Do you know Harry Boota at all?
I have met him only once for a photo opportunity. An unexpected one in the hotel, which is where Ukip were meeting in the bar. So I met him and I am quite impressed by him. I don’t know if Liberal Democrat have chosen one or not and we don’t know about Labour yet.
Well let’s look at the potential Labour PPC’s for Bradford West. What do you think of them?
What do you think of the Londoner, Sophia Cannon?
I am very much hoping that Sophia Cannon is my opponent because parachuting this woman in from London, who has a self declared reason for wanting to stand is to get revenge for my victory against Oona King who lost to me in 2005 it’s not the strongest reason for standing in Parliament for Bradford, that we want to get revenge for a previous victory. She said this herself. When asked what was the reason for standing in Bradford West, she said two words and proceeded to use more than two words, so arithmetic is not her strongest points. So I am very much hoping that she is my opponent, but I have no idea when Labour will choose, who they will choose or who they will choose.
What do you think of the other ladies? Naveeda Ikram is the only one I know, when I met her at the by-election when she told me that her son supported me in the by election, so I have a soft spot for her. But honestly I know nothing more than that about her or any of the other potential Labour candidates. So I wouldn’t know them if they were sitting here and neither would the voters of Bradford West.
So what can we expect from you in your second term?
You can expect dynamism, by the grace of God that I am still up early in the morning, work all day and evening. I have a prolific work rate and you can expect five more years of that. You can expect me to take up each and every righteous cause wherever it takes place, whether in the city or in the world. You can expect me to be there on the front line defending every just cause. My intentions are true and I have no need to be a Member of Parliament, but I think I am quite a good one and I think that most people think that. Even if they disagree with me on this or that, they at least recognise that I am a parliamentarian. That’s why I think more than half of them will vote for me.
I would like to ask you to look at the motions that I have tabled because most of them are local or international issues.
I get lots of coverage for international causes, but in fact most of the issues that I have brought up in Parliament are either city lead, or regional or national not just international and I would like to stress that point. There would be nothing wrong with specialising in International affairs but as it happens I don’t, but those get more attention than others.