Mark Steel: Vain and dreadful, but at least Galloway is original

Next someone will say he's brainwashed Jodie Marsh to become a suicide bomber
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The Independent Online

Having campaigned for the Respect coalition, I'm finding George Galloway's life in the Big Brother house both compelling and atrocious. Much of the abuse about him is predictable, such as the pro-war New Labour MP Denis MacShane's complaint that George's antics "will destroy forever what standing he has with British Muslims".

So, now Muslims will say: "I'm voting for you Denis, because although you supported bombing my auntie's village, at least you've never had your moustache near Rula Lenska's crotch."

MacShane went on: "MPs have a special privilege... it is not the chance to slide up the greasy pole of ambition." Because one thing New Labour has always been resolutely opposed to is sliding up the greasy pole of ambition. Peter Mandelson and David Blunkett especially are sticklers on this issue, and when Cherie heard Galloway was getting £60,000 for a three-week appearance she must have screamed: "That's disgraceful! I'd want that for a 10-minute talk on astrology."

Galloway has pledged his appearance money to a Palestinian charity, Interpal, which one paper claims is a "front for terrorism," although the last time this was alleged, the accuser had to issue a public apology. Next, someone will claim he's using his statements in the diary room to send coded messages to the Hamas militia. Perhaps Jodie Marsh is in on it, and he's brainwashed her to become a suicide bomber. Getting her kicked out was part of the plan, but it went wrong when she strapped on the gelignite and said: "Ugh, I can't wear this, it makes my arse look really fat and that."

At some point an American senator will claim he's been paid two thousand barrels of milk by the Syrian Milk Marketing Board in return for publicising their product as an ideal beverage for cats.

Then there's the complaint he's not in the House of Commons. But most of the time hardly anyone's in the House of Commons. If you switch on the Parliament Channel, and catch someone mumbling while three others are asleep you think it IS Big Brother. At least in the Big Brother house they have to make their own breakfast.

Or Galloway is "debasing Parliament". But if the Big Brother house was as "honourable" as Parliament, no one could speak unless called by a bloke in a wig, then Pete would say: "Mr Speaker, is it not the case that there's nothing fucking worse than when you're trying to put on your eyelashes and some impatient arsehole's banging on the toilet door?" Dennis Rodman would have to answer: "Ahugh, yugh, whatever, I refer the honourable transvestite to the answer I mumbled some time ago," and those who agreed would have to shout "Hear, hear," while leaning out of the Jacuzzi.

But the establishment will always try to denounce those opposed to it as being motivated by personal ambition, and by appearing in the show George has handed them this issue on a plate. Because it's hard to see what led him in there apart from his own vanity. He's said he's disappointed with the level of discussion in the house, but he must have seen the thing before. Or maybe he believed the other housemates would be Richard Dawkins, Noam Chomsky, Joan Bakewell and Jonathan Miller. Even then it would probably have gone the same way, with Chomsky yelling: "I'll tell you something else faith can't explain, Dawkins, someone's been eating my bloody Custard Creams."

George's office has complained that Channel 4 is censoring him, as they cut a section in which the other housemates agreed with him on the war. But he shouldn't be surprised by that. We were never going to hear "It's 3.45pm and George is in the kitchen describing to Chantelle the situation in Uzbekistan."

Many who denounce him are hypocrites, but I expect many who supported him and Respect, and who opposed the war, have also sat in disbelief as he's crawled round the floor purring, certain that this was never mentioned in the Respect manifesto. And if any constituent wants to see him, they'll have to wait till he's evicted, then yell: "Davina, before you show his best bits can I ask him about my drains?" Then again, voters are now aware he looks very fetching as a pirate.

Somehow though, while his presence there is dreadful, at times he's hilarious. At one point he convinced the housemates to stop playing a game they'd been ordered to play that entailed sitting in a cardboard box, citing the spirit of Spartacus. Of all the thoughts that passed through Spartacus' mind when he was crucified by the Romans, I doubt that one was: "But our spirit will one day live on in the great cardboard box struggle of 2006."

And, if it does manage to wreck his fledgling party, at least he's done it in an original and fascinating manner. The history of politics would be so much richer if say, accounts of the demise of the Whig Party read: "Although there were disagreements among the leaders with regard to the corn laws, the major factor precipitating their downfall was the occurrence in 1841 of Viscount Melbourne appearing on a flicker card clambering under a commode with Jane Austen while pretending to be a mouse on Celebrity Big Brother."

Blair must be hoping he can entice every prominent anti-war activist to go into next year's Big Brother, then while they were all arguing about how many cigars to trade in for cigarettes, he and Bush could invade Iran and they wouldn't even know it was happening.

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