Joan Smith: Why does anybody give a monkey's about Galloway?

He is a man who is not even on nodding terms with consistency
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The Independent Online

What do you call a devout Catholic who sucks up to dictators, rails against abortion and says it's OK to bomb Tony Blair? Apart from confused, I mean. The answer is George Galloway, whose relaxed attitude to the biblical prohibition on killing people was revealed in GQ magazine last week. According to him, assassinating the Prime Minister in a suicide bombing would be "morally justified" as revenge for the war in Iraq, although Galloway is not actually calling for it, you understand.

The Respect MP - as names go it's about as fatuous as Robert Kilroy-Silk's Veritas - was otherwise engaged last week, making a surprise appearance on Cuban TV. I mean surprise in the sense of unexpected: the MP burst on set in the middle of a discussion programme, embraced Fidel Castro and declared him a lion in a political world of monkeys.

I'm not sure what Galloway has got against monkeys, which are more intelligent than big cats, but then his rhetoric is always overblown; this is the man who once said: "The difference between me and Mr Bush and Mr Blair is that I am against all dictatorships all of the time, not just some dictators some of the time." Well, Castro is a dictator all of the time, as Amnesty International's report made clear last week. It recorded that human rights activists, political dissidents and trade unionists in Cuba are still being harassed and intimidated; nearly 70 prisoners of conscience remain in jail and more than 30 prisoners are on death row.

Amnesty had harsh words for another dictator admired by Galloway, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, whom he hailed as a breath of fresh air and the "last Arab leader" after a trip to Damascus last year. According to Amnesty, torture and ill-treatment of detainees continue to be widely reported. One man, Seraj Khalbous, became seriously ill after being beaten, stamped on, threatened with rape, subjected to sleep deprivation and extreme cold, and witnessing other prisoners being tortured with electric shocks.

At this point, I can't help recalling another ringing Galloway declaration: "I have religious beliefs and try to live by them. I have all my life been against abortion and against euthanasia."

This will come as no surprise to anyone who has heard his tirades on the subject in the Commons; Galloway is one of those men who has boasted about his own sexual prowess - "I travelled to and spent lots of time with people in Greece, many of whom were women, some of whom were carnally known to me," he claimed after a charity conference on Mykonos - but would deny women the chance to end unwanted pregnancies.

Galloway is a shameless populist, not even on nodding terms with consistency. The fact that he's taken seriously demonstrates the damage done to politics by Blair's war in Iraq. Distrust of the Government is at an all-time high and its critics get an easy ride. I'm opposed to a great many things Tony Blair has done, but I can think of few more disgusting claims than Galloway's proposition that there could ever be a justification for blowing an elected politician to bits, a point that needs to be made more strongly than ever after 7/7.

There is an irony in the fact that both men are religious, demonstrating the deleterious effect of moral certainty in politics; but I don't think Mr Blair is anything other than horrified by the death toll in Iraq. The most serious charge against him is that he was wrong and won't admit it, whereas Galloway is making excuses for cold-blooded murder. The Big Brother house is too good for him, let alone the House of Commons.

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