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.