Sergeant Sheridan stands at the window of the castle. He watches with mounting horror the cavortings around the bonfire. Suddenly, a voice booms from behind him.
Lord Galloway (for it is he): I trust you find the sight of the young ladies invigorating, sergeant?
Sheridan: Invigorating? No sir, I do not! It is an offence against public decency and an abomination before the Lord! I as a family man should not have to witness such lewdness!
Galloway: Come, come, sergeant. The young ladies are simply expressing a natural joy in their sexuality and their ripe young bodies.
Sheridan: But – but they are in their knickers!
Galloway: Not any old knickers, sergeant. Not your cheapo knickers from Primark. No, these are Kylie’s knickers. A fine product, if I may say so. Indeed, I myself have procured a pair for my woman…
Right, that’s enough of The Wicker Man. But really, I find it difficult to take seriously all the sound and fury over Galloway’s daft little piece about Kylie in the Daily Record. Really, from what some people are saying, you’d think he’d invaded Iraq or something. For some intelligent commentary, I refer readers to Piers’ thoughts over at Liam’s blog.
Here’s what I think. There is of course a thin line, when commenting on matters sexual, between what you can get away with and outright sexism. A lot of this depends on tone, context and who is saying what to whom. Even as a humble blogger, I at least am aware there’s a line to be walked, and take care to stay on the right side of it even if I’ve arguably strayed over once or twice. But I don’t lead public opinion and don’t aspire to. George, as an elected representative and party leader, has to be careful of what he says and hold himself to a high standard.
And this is the occupational hazard of working with Galloway. He says an awful lot – often very good, sometimes terrible, and sometimes just plain daft. He has a tendency to let his wit and eloquence run away with him. Even though this can be his strength, it’s also been his downfall more than once. The man is, I have to say, a bit of a menace and you never know what you’re going to get from him next.
But we know all this. We know George blows hot and cold. We know too that he has a tendency to play to his audience – in this case, I presume, Glasgow barflies. A lot depends on who he’s talking to and what reception he thinks he’s going to get.
As a regular listener to Radio Galloway, I can confirm that he does have a tendency to veer from one extreme to the other. Sometimes he can be quite censorious. For instance, several weeks ago George was waxing wroth over the media’s ongoing obsession with Jacqui Smith’s cleavage – this story having run for months thanks to the parliamentary sketchwriters, a gang of public schoolboys who apparently think it’s hilarious that a female politician has big boobs. For the record, I agree with George (and Jacqui) that the Home Secretary should be judged on her policies and her performance in the job, not on the size of her breasts.
On the other hand, George does lapse into phwoar territory much more often than I would like. And while you can argue that, yes, Kylie uses her sexuality to market herself, I’m afraid George’s comments come under the category of phwoaring.
So what of the gauntlet thrown down to Respect Renewal supporters? This is dead simple. Nobody except George is under any obligation to defend George’s dafter utterances. In fact, it’s perfectly all right for anyone challenged on this to say politely that, in their opinion, George was out of order. Indeed, if someone sent in a letter to the new Respect paper saying that George was out of order, I’m sure it would get printed. This would underline that Renewal is not a personality cult and is rather different from the old Respect. God knows, George is thick-skinned enough to take it.
But, and I have to say this, this doesn’t change the fact that a great deal of the criticism of Galloway has been in transparently bad faith. I will leave aside the members and fellow travellers of the AWL, who just hate Galloway and will use any stick to beat him. What is much more entertaining has been the great outpouring of synthetic outrage from the Swops. Remember, these were the guys who defended George to the hilt over the Big Brother fiasco and prevented him being censured in Respect. The Gorgeous One’s cringeworthy GQ interview, when he regaled us with the arresting image of him waking up with a broomhandle every morning, passed them by. And now they are outraged over this? If George really is the sexist monster they would have us believe, doesn’t it raise at least a question mark over their past relations with him?
And don’t even get me started on institutional sexism in the SWP. Some of the carryings on in the party hierarchy – which the grunts in the branches may be only dimly aware of – would make even George’s hair stand on end, like quills upon the fretful porpentine. Mote and beam alert, I think.