Howard Jacobson: George Galloway is to me what Heathcliff is to Cathy - always, always on my mind

The man confused the 'Big Brother' house with the universe, and a fatuous game show with life
Click to follow
The Independent Online

I dream about George Galloway. Not the dreams you think. He doesn't come crawling to me on all fours, the little motor of his purr whirring in his throat, his fur on edge, wanting to lap milk from my cupped hands. I wouldn't object to that. To my mind his cat impression was one of his high moments in the Celebrity Big Brother house, not one of his low.

A man who is able to abandon himself to passive sexuality while the whole world watches cannot be all bad. And he did it with a practised assurance. Knew how to stretch, knew how to yield, knew how to beg. Caught the very essence of two-faced cat. One more purr and you'd have kicked him down the stairs. Which who is to say is not what he has all along been wanting.

He doesn't come to me in his carmine-coloured Lycra leotard either, though such a visitation, I concede, would be harder to take. Something to do with that miserable bunched-up twist of pig's pizzle you get in Lycra, or that some people get in Lycra ... but let's leave that as a source of little visible delight and move on.

No, when George enters my dream it's to tell me he has changed his mind about the Middle East, regrets kowtowing to dictators and their blood-crazed offspring (an activity to which his submissive cat skills no doubt proved indispensable), acknowledges he has forfeited the Muslim vote and is now wondering what he might do to get the Jews - correction, Zionists - on side.

He offers me a cigar. Caresses me with confidentiality. He has a seductive Dundee accent, George. (That's the Dundee in Scotland, not the Dundee which Chantelle the non-celebrity - as though there's any telling the difference - thought might just be in Wales.) A soft-whiskered, mellow-whiskied Dundee purr.

I do not number myself among those who questioned what Galloway was doing going into the Big Brother house in the first place. "Our task is to take politics to the people," he declared, and who was to say it wouldn't work. Sure, it's demeaning, but politics is a demeaning business. Rent boys, denials of rent boys when the existence of a rent boy is as plain as a pig's pizzle in a leotard, condescension to the electorate, youth paraded as a virtue... Show me the dignity of office Galloway betrayed. And as for keeping company with the has-beens and never-weres of a debased celebrity culture, how does that differ from Tony Blair's idea of a social gathering at 10 Downing Street?

So go for it, George, I thought. I don't mind admitting I was even worried lest he come out of it all too well. I am not an admirer of George Galloway's politics for all that I dream about him. As Cathy tells Nellie, you don't have to like someone to have them always, always in your mind. And at a time in our political life when we are prepared to salute whoever confirms what we already believe, that politician is particularly dangerous who speaks with the voice of the mob. What if the kids in the Big Brother house went as soft on him as our US-hating intelligentsia? What if they too mistook the boldness of the bully for political astuteness?

As it turns out, I needn't have been apprehensive. The young whom Galloway went in to woo saw through him in a trice. Well, maybe not in a trice. For a day or two their opinion of him hung in the balance. The truth is, if I am to be honest, they were there for his taking. And what went wrong? Reader, he did.

Do you really want to know why I have been unable to think about anything else these last however many days? It is because Galloway's self-unravelling on television has been as dramatic as any tragicomedy by Molière, except that Molière is over in an evening and this went on for ever. Molière not Shakespeare. Shakespeare starts from the possibility of grandeur, and Galloway could never have been grand. Molière, though, is the poet of self-deceit and megalomania, and he would have relished George. For never has a man betrayed the origins of his ideology in paranoid delusions, the origins of his world-view in mere oversensitivity to personal slight, so forensically or publicly as the member for Bethnal Green and Bow.

Reader, it has been astonishing. The man confused the Big Brother house with the universe, and a fatuous game show with life. When the other contestants voted against him in a matter of no more significance than landing badly on a snakes-and-ladders board he accused them of taking away his rights and boiled with indignation for a week. When a couple of housemates were treated to a joke membership of a private club his jealousy of their five-minute access to tobacco and champagne swelled into a tempest of bitter outrage. Through the smoke of his own cigar he charged them with being "lying plutocrats" and warned that they would pay for their hypocrisy and self-interest.

In his demeanour, in his pedantic self-righteousness, in the fluency of his oratorical rage, there was no difference between his pique at missing out on nothing in a nothing game and his denunciations of the Iraq war, or his protestations of high-minded probity before the US Senate. And whoever makes Celebrity Big Brother of the same moment as Iraq, makes Iraq of the same moment as Celebrity Big Brother. In the end, all causes are equal to a man whose only measure of injustice is the buffetings suffered by his own conceit.

But it gets more wonderful still. In every argument he engineered or entered into in the house, Galloway came off second best. Michael Barrymore cleaned him up, a boy bandsman called Preston cleaned him up - reader, Chantelle cleaned him up! What US senators could not do, what the English educated classes could not do, an unknown model from Essex with a silly laugh, whose only ideology is orange lipstick, and who thinks Brussels might be the capital of France, could.

Makes you think, if you're a thinking person.