What a voice he has, George Galloway. He's the Pavarotti of politics.
Apart from the stomach and the money and...Well, apart from everything in fact but he does have the voice of a great theatrical singer, strong, cadenced, smooth, textured. And when his passions get going the voice keeps up. It's an old-fashioned political instrument that can fill a hall without an amp, I never listen to Galloway's big speeches for fear of what I'll end up believing.
"Didn't you get the email I sent you some months ago?" he asked and I said I hadn't. "It was about one of your sketches. Even by your standards it was ..." He paused to consider the next word and I confess I went into the brace position. He has a reputation for invective. That description of Christopher Hitchens as a "bloated, drink-soaked popinjay" could be quickly reworked for this occasion by a mind as deft as his.
And what else did he have in his greatest hits – that thing he said in the Commons in an Iraq debate, was it? About the "special relationship"? He didn't want us in the relationship that Monica Lewinsky had with Bill Clinton, "illicit, humiliating and with the junior partner always on its knees". That made some of us very happy, I can still feel the afterglow.
Just in the hour or so we tag along with him he says several memorable things. "We are the ghosts of Labour's past", for one. And Tony Blair had "flown the party to destruction". And Trident offers "mutual incineration". These have rhetorical force because they aren't bromides off a briefing sheet.
And here's a point. In a hung parliament, rhetoric, oratory, speaking will matter. The ability to carry the House may – for the first time in decades – actually have an effect on the vote. George, with or without the rest of his candidates, has a good chance of meaning something.
"One poll has just three seats difference between Labour and Conservative. And we have three candidates standing. My wife asked me what that meant. I told her, it means I'm going to be foreign secretary." He smiled, without laughing.
"And what will your first act as foreign secretary be, George?" he was asked.
"Withdrawal from Ireland," he replied in his impeccable Scots. "As a pairson of Irish background that would be my fairst priority."
You'll want to know about his buttressed, cross-braced, interlocking policy platform. But here's the short version: "You'd never vote against a Labour coalition, even if David Miliband was leading it?"
"No," he said firmly. "It's an honour to disagree with you," he quoted the Telegraph's late sketch writer Frank Johnson. The remark appears in George's campaign literature.
The BNP isn't running in the constituency – it's a shame for George as they take Labour votes, but not Respect votes. The competition for the seat is a Labour MP who was, or has been, a minister of some sort. I'm pretty sure I've heard him in the House, but can't retrieve anything about him. If we were playing Hangman with his name you'd still wouldn't get him at the stage of J_M F_T_P_TR_CK. There's no need to be unpleasant you say, and you're probably right. He's a lamb. But he must be sacrificed in the interests of the sketching community, as they say in this part of Limehouse.
PS. Galloway's unfinished verdict on the Sketch began with the word "unusually". Readers are invited to complete the thought for themselves.Reuse content