How We Met: George Galloway MP & Matt Forde
'He wouldn't be bullied. I remember thinking: you, young man, are magnificent'
George Galloway, 58
First elected as a Labour MP in the 1987 General Election, Galloway (left in picture) is renowned for his combative style; he fiercely critiqued the 2003 Iraq War. Following his expulsion from the Labour Party, he became a founding member of the Respect Party in 2004, and was re-elected as an MP in the Bradford West by-election in March 2012. He lives in Bradford with his wife
When my Talksport show used to finish at 1am on a Friday, I'd hand over to the next person by talking up their show with them. Sometimes it was a little embarrassing if I was handing over to a crazed right-wing fanatic, so it was hard to muster much enthusiasm for it – until along came a young man called Matt Forde, and right away I knew he was special. He was funny and he had real subjects to talk about.
I started to listen to him on my car radio as I drove home, and I was impressed by both his humour and his courage. You have to be brave presenting late-night radio, as a lot of drunks and nasty people call in. They didn't like him – too left-wing – or his courageous stances on the death penalty and sexuality; some started a petition to have him chucked off. But he wouldn't be bullied. I remember thinking: you, young man, are magnificent.
But while by the standards of Talksport Matt was left of centre, he really is quite right-wing in many things, and he stands by those beliefs even if some of them are frankly appalling. He is the last Blair supporter in the country, which truly perplexes me: I'm trying to put Tony Blair behind bars, while he wants me to plumb the depths of my memory to find some nuance of the Employment Act that Mr Blair piloted through, that might be warmly received.
I have a real affection for him, though, and I want to look out for him. We both love football very much and to a foreigner such as my wife, who knows nothing about football, it's astounding how two sane, grown men can talk for so long about Nottingham Forest.
It's so easy, given the state of today's political class, to pick up a scythe and swing it, cutting down everything in your path. But Matt hasn't done that, as he's not anti-politics and he's not a nihilist. I've been on [Forde's stand-up show] The Political Party twice, so it doesn't surprise me that he's beginning to rise out of the pack. I say to him, "Remember me when you are rich and famous."
Lots of people don't understand why someone like me, or someone like Nigel Farage, have the following that we do. But Matt gets that it's because we are real, we are not speak-your-weight machines, like the majority of party figures today, who are constantly on message.
Matt Forde, 30
A former political adviser to the Labour Party, Forde turned to stand-up, reaching the semi-finals in 2002 of So You Think You're Funny?, the competition run for new acts at Edinburgh. A regular TV-show panellist, he also hosts politically themed show 'The Political Party', and is an award-winning radio presenter. He lives in London
I first saw George speak live at a hotel in Nottingham more than 10 years ago. I'd been drifting towards Blairism but I wanted to see George's speech on Iraq because, as an orator, he was phenomenal: the hairs on my neck stood on end as he used his voice and visual language to hold the audience rapt. I disagreed with what he was saying – that Tony Blair and his allies had taken millions of lives in Iraq – but I respected his ability.
He's so intellectually superior to his counterparts, he's like an elite athlete; his appearance in 2005 in front of a US Senate committee [to answer allegations that he had received oil from the Iraqi government for his opposition to UN sanctions] showed that. It was the greatest piece of political theatre I'd ever seen: he tore them to shreds. And what I'd seen him do to the Senate, I've heard him do to callers to Talksport, saying things like, "Steve, the next time you've got a few quid, instead of ringing up and parading your ignorance, invest in some books."
I joined Talksport three or four years ago and the first time I was in the office with George, I was like, bloody hell! At the end of his show, he'd always tease me about being a Blairite, saying things like, "Coming up after 12am, Tony Blair's apologist, Matt Forde." But I'm a fan of politics and as we're we both on the Left, we had in plenty common. And after a while I started to get an insight into a tender, more gentle side of his wit and eccentricity rather than Galloway the bruiser.
We disagree a lot, though. His relentless anti-Blairness annoys me sometimes – I feel like saying, "There must be something you liked about him." But he's Left of me by quite some distance: for him, the fall of the Soviet Union was one of the biggest tragedies in his lifetime, while I feel an awful lot of people on the Left ignored the failings of those systems.
When I started doing my monthly show, I wanted to showcase how politics could be entertaining, so I asked George to come. It was like being sat next to a trained killer; if I put a foot out of place, I knew he was going to take me down. But off stage it's like chatting to an uncle: talking football, sport, music, and he's a great joker. I wish more people could see that.
Other MPs are right to fear him. He's a ferocious opponent, as he's so passionate. People I speak to who are in New Labour say he's the best Labour leader they never had. He'd be amazing on Prime Minister's Questions as Leader of the Opposition: he has the power to bring down governments.
'Matt Forde: The Political Party' is at the Pleasance Ace Dome at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 4pm daily, to 25 August
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