Tuesday, 24 July 2007

The rights and wrongs of George Galloway

What to make of George Galloway's 18-day suspension from the House of Commons?

I've probably made it fairly clear already on this blog that I'm not a fan of Mr Galloway, or of the RESPECT Party. Galloway's views on the Middle East are thoroughly counter-productive, and encourage hatred, rather than co-operation, between Muslim and Jewish communities in Britain. His record of attendance and participation in Parliament is beyond a joke, and his speeches, whilst oratorically very impressive, are truth-mangling bile fests which, rather than making peace more likely, actually set it back.

I'll never be able to forgive RESPECT for their behaviour at this year's NUS Conference, where they tried to block a motion to give Jewish students greater protection against anti-Semitism. The Union of Jewish Students wanted their members to be able to define anti-Semitic behaviour for themselves - a fundamental protection already enjoyed by ethnic minority groups since the Macpherson report. RESPECT argued that Jews should be denied that same protection, as they might abuse it in order to silence criticism of Israel.

With all that baggage, you might think I am delighted to see Galloway go down. In fact, I'm very disturbed that an elected MP can be thrown out of Parliament by his or her peers, on the say-so of the Standards and Privileges Committee. The only people with the power to get rid of an MP should be his own constituents. Much as I dislike Galloway, he was fairly elected, and should sit in Parliament until he stands down or gets voted out.

Unlike Galloway, I believe that the Committee acted in good faith and that their decision was a fair one. They claim they have strong evidence that Galloway failed to declare his charity's financial links with the Saddam Hussein regime, and I'm prepared to trust their judgement. But whatever an MP's misdemeanours, his constituents still deserve a representative in Westminster.

Who knows what might happen during the summer recess? When Parliament resumes, and Galloway's suspension begins, his constituents might have serious need of his help, and they don't deserve to be kept waiting for 18 days for somebody else's misbehaviour.


Anonymous said...

i agree with lots of what you have said but, George Galloway ahs nto been the 'model MP'. He left his constituents to go on a relaity TV show, where he became even more of a laughing stock. during his time in the house he missed a key debate and vote on cross rail links (im not 100% sure if that's what its called) which directly effects his constituents. Add onto that in his press conference (after being evicted from the show) one of his aides threatned to hit a journalist becasue George the question he was being asked

That said i dont feel that MP's should be allowed to reccomend that one of thier 'peers' is thrown out of the Chamber. I would suggest that the members of the House of lords recommend this but, we would be faced with a dofferent problem. we would have unelected official's trying to excpel elected officials.

so for now, the 100% perfect system will have to do, and Mr Galloway's constituents will have to get used to not being represented for 18 days in October. (although considering Mr Galloway's average turnout to votes in the Commons is 13%, his constituents are probably used to it)


Tristan said...

Personally I think that an MP's job is not to look after constituents. What can he do from within the house anyway?

Much better to let MPs do their job of keeping government in check and let them be suspended if they break the rules than to have them running around after constituents and looking for browny points with constituents or party leaders.

This is unfortunately a detremental affect of representative democracy - but not a necessary one (it also has to do with the huge centralisation of power and increase in state power)

If LibDems are to push localism they should try to disconnect MPs and everyday concerns of constituents, that should be the job of councillors and other local bodies rather than MPs and central government.

monsterravingloony said...

Sorry Jonny but I don't agree with you on this one.

Being an elected MP should not be a blank cheque, giving you immunity against any wrongdoing. Elected or not, if you are unfit or deserving of punishment you should be punished.

The question is whether some alternative punishment would have been fairer to his constituents, not to deprive him of his services and of representation. I'm not sure there is any such form of punishment available to the SPC. Nor do I think the relatively brief suspension of representation is likely to materially damage any constituent's interests.

Anyhow, would those constituents still wish to be represented by Galloway now that his misdealings are in the open? How many would still have voted for him if they had known?

Your argument reminds me a little of the arguments over the legitimacy of Hamas. I know (and share) your feelings about Hamas, but many misguided people defend them on the basis they were fairly elected. My counterargument is that in a credible democracy you do not allow terrorists to stand as candidates in the first place, whether you think people might be tempted to vote for them or not. There are possibly some constituencies in the UK where an official Al Qaeda candidate might get enough votes to get elected, if allowed to stand. They might then go on to misuse their position to assist terrorism and undermine democracy from within. Should they then be defended and protected as the democratically elected candidate?

Now I'm not saying Galloway is a terrorist, though I do see him as a terrorist sympathiser. But I think he would probably have been barred from standing as candidate in the first place if his illicit actions had been known about at the time, and I don't think the fact of his election should protect him if he is subsequently found to be unfit for office. The question to my mind is whether he should have been ejected permanently and a by-election called.