I love this guy, he is incredible!
Describing the huge convoy he is leading to Gaza, packed with food, clothes and medical supplies, he begins with a proud recital of the statistics: "One hundred vehicles. A mile long. Aid worth a million pounds." If he smiles like a cat that's got the cream, who can argue? The help is needed. The vehicles – trucks, cars, ambulances, fire engines, even a boat for the fishermen – that left London yesterday at the start of a three-week overland journey have been donated and are crewed by volunteers
"This is a vast armada, the biggest convoy of British vehicles to cross North Africa since Montgomery and the Eighth Army." His grandfather Tommy was there. "I grew up with his lovely black-and-white pictures of the desert." And, being George, he cannot help himself from turning up the heat. Most of those who are going with him are British Muslims. "If I had said to the youth, 'Right, break out the Kalashnikovs, we're heading for Palestine,' they would have been there. The people are boiling mad
Galloway raised the most support for his idea in "the big industrial cities of the North" – speaking to a thousand people in a warehouse in Bolton, for example. "There is such anger at Britain's role. All the public money the Government has spent on checking the radicalisation of Muslim youth has gone up in smoke [since Israel began its attacks]. The idea that Muslims are going to watch that on the television every night and not be radicalised is completely fanciful."
He goes further. "There is a kind of intifada among the youth. They are determined to act." Inflammatory stuff – except that Galloway, who has courted this audience to great effect since alienating himself from mainstream party politics, insists he is offering the angry another way. "We say, 'Don't be lured by the siren voices of separatism and extremism – join with us and express your anger politically, in a way that will be peaceful, non-violent, and not cost you your life, but will not cost other people their lives either. If the Government had any sense, they would be facilitating this convoy."
It's not, of course. The rich accent is that of a Scotsman like Gordon Brown, but fraternal feelings go no further. Galloway was born in Dundee in 1954, and joined the Labour Party just 13 years later. He represented Glasgow seats as an MP from 1987 to 2005, by which time he had been expelled from the party for bringing it into disrepute – essentially, because he dared to oppose the invasion of Iraq. Later, accused of profiting personally from the UN Oil-for-Food programme, he was summoned to appear before a US Senate committee. That was when the rest of the world discovered the cigar-chomping, finger-waving magnificence of the orator in full flow. See it on YouTube today.
Here ya go:
Yes, he had met Saddam, he said, exactly the same number of times as the US Secretary of Defense. "The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns." Afterwards, Galloway stood victorious on Capitol Hill, having won new fans – even among the previously reluctant – by sticking it to the senators.
At his office in Portcullis House there are pictures of Palestine and an action doll of Fidel Castro. George – nicknamed Gorgeous because of his dress sense – is in a black suit with a thick pinstripe and a black shirt. His silver beard is closely cropped. We meet two days before the departure of the convoy. Is this really the best way to get aid there? No. "It's definitely not the most efficient way," he admits. "But it is the only way for ordinary citizens to do it."
Anywhere else, there would be a Berlin-style airlift, he says. "Almost every window has been broken but Israel refuses to allow glass across the border. So, in the bitter winter, 61,000 families whose homes have been destroyed are living among the rubble and the rest are freezing because they've got no windows. You could solve that problem in a weekend, but because it is the Palestinians it doesn't happen."
The volunteers are taking their own aid. "What we asked people to bring was bedclothes, clothes, nappies, food and medical equipment." Does he really expect to be allowed in? "I do, actually. My prediction is that by the time we arrive in Gaza there will be a 12-month ceasefire." If not, they will wait there until let in.
The world needs more George Galloways!!