Galloway stays in 'Big Brother' as criticism mounts

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The Independent Online

The Government's Chief Whip has launched a petition calling on George Galloway to leave the reality show Celebrity Big Brother and return to the job of representing his constituents.

Last night, the Bethnal Green and Bow MP Mr Galloway survived the first eviction when glamour model Jodie Marsh was voted off the programme. Before the vote, Mr Galloway had said: "I'm not used to losing elections, and I'd be sorry to lose this one."

He said that he had chosen to appear on the programme to reach out to younger viewers and show a more "human" side. "I hope to show that there's nothing extreme, nothing frightening about me," he said.

"I wanted to show that I'm not a desiccated, calculating, maniac zealot who only talks or thinks about the war."

Channel 4 announced last night that the former DJ Sir Jimmy Savile is to visit the Big Brother house this afternoon.

Ms Armstrong's campaign followed an extraordinary performance from Mr Galloway in the Big Brother house. Pretending to be a cat, he purred and licked imaginary cream from the hands of the actress Rula Lenska, as part of one of the "tasks" set for contestants.

Meanwhile, the House of Commons was debating the Crossrail project, which will affect his east London constituency.

Ms Armstrong was unimpressed by Mr Galloway's feline antics, saying they had made her "cringe". The Labour MP for North-West Durham said: " I'm absolutely bemused that he decided to do something where he is uncontactable by the people he represents or works for. Something serious could happen here today and no one can contact him - and that to me seems a bit strange for someone who is a publicly elected official.

"No one can talk to him, they can watch him and this is not a very edifying experience, but his constituents, cannot see him working for them and representing them in Parliament."

The petition stated: "We believe this egotistical action shows a shameful lack of respect for the people of this constituency.

"We call on him to represent and respect his constituents, not further his own ego, as he is by remaining totally out of touch in the Big Brother house."

A spokeswoman for Channel 4 said that it would only allow contact between housemates and the outside world if it was a matter of life or death.

Mr Galloway's office strongly rejected the accusation that he had neglected his duties as an MP, insisting that surgeries were being held in his absence and dismissing the Crossrail debate as a discussion about " technicalities". A spokesman for Mr Galloway said: "It's a stunt. I'm sure nobody in Bethnal Green and Bow has ever seen Hilary Armstrong. George's constituency work is being done by staff. There haven't been any complaints and there's no dereliction of duty. The Crossrail debate was about technicalities, it wasn't a vote. He didn't miss anything."

Mr Galloway, who is reported to have received £60,000 for his appearance, said he agreed to do the show to raise money for a Palestinian charity and because it gave him the opportunity to talk to a television audience of millions. John Biggs, a Labour London Assembly member, said: "I think there is a need for politicians to engage with people, but I do not think that being on Big Brother is the best way to achieve it. We have had a steady flow of people come to it not to complain about George, but because they have issues they want addressed."

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