George Galloway’s craziest moments – from Big Brother cat antics to hailing Saddam Hussein

Galloway is back in Westminster after a landslide victory at the Rochdale by-election in his seventh parliamentary victory

Alex Ross
Friday 01 March 2024 19:52 GMT
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George Galloway victory speech in full as The Workers Party win Rochdale by-election

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

The clock had not yet struck 3am when a grinning George Galloway again took to the centre stage of a by-election result, this time in Rochdale.

Clearly puffed up, Britain’s newest MP gently moved down the two podium microphones before launching a proud victory speech with the words “Keir Starmer”, followed by a rehearsed tirade against Labour’s leader over his stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Not a throw of orange confetti or the heckling from a Just Stop Oil protester could stop the four-times married MP from savouring the moment in front of the cameras after trouncing the established political parties.

Yet if this extraordinary turn of events didn’t seem new, it was because it wasn’t.

This was his seventh parliamentary victory in four cities for three parties across four decades. The constituency-hopping campaigner is without doubt a master of winning by-elections, managing to stir up local support in regions hit by political bedlam.

A smiling George Galloway takes aim at Labour leader Keir Starmer after being elected as Rochdale MP
A smiling George Galloway takes aim at Labour leader Keir Starmer after being elected as Rochdale MP (PA)

But with his undeniable political success also comes huge controversy.

And while the 69-year-old’s return to Westminster will bring nightmares to Sir Keir, along with other leading political figures, his resurgence will bring to his name more disgrace, or glory, depending on how you see it.

Here we look at Mr Galloway’s craziest moments:

Saddam Hussein

It was just four years after the Gulf War, sparked by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, when Mr Galloway met Saddam Hussein in 1994.

During the heavily-criticised meeting with Iraq’s then leader he was recorded telling the dictator: “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.”

Galloway sits with Saddam Hussein in a meeting with the Iraqi dictator condemned by many in the West
Galloway sits with Saddam Hussein in a meeting with the Iraqi dictator condemned by many in the West (INA/AFP via Getty)

And his tours to the region led to him being dubbed the “member for Baghdad Central” from some quarters.

Mr Galloway would later appear at a High Court hearing where he was accused of defending Saddam over a chemical weapons massacre of Kurdish people in 1988. “How dare you,” he shouted across the court room in 2012.

And when questioned about the praise he gave to Saddam, he said he had been referring to the courage of the Iraqi people, and not the dictator.

Big Brother

It was a shock when Mr Galloway’s name appeared on series four of Celebrity Big Brother in 2006 – but perhaps not as much as for the scenes that followed.

In one utterly bizarre scene, the then ex-MP was dressed up in a cat leotard as he playfully nibbled the hands of actress Rula Lenska. The politician also purred as another housemate scratched behind his ears before the TV cameras.

Galloway pretends to be a cat in an infamous clip from ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ in 2006
Galloway pretends to be a cat in an infamous clip from ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ in 2006 (Big Brother)

While the stunt made viewers cringe, it has gone down in history as one of the most iconic moments on the television series.

And that wasn’t the only moment that shocked viewers with Mr Galloway going head to head with former television star Michael Barrymore.

Barrymore, who was appearing on the show after his fall from grace following the death of Stuart Lubbock at his home in 2001, fell out with the MP over a task. Mr Galloway appeared to make a joke over his reported alcohol addiction.

Mr Galloway shouted to Barrymore: “Poor me, poor me, poor me, pour me a drink.”

Gorgeous George

Today, Mr Galloway cuts an elderly figure. The spectacled MP gave up cigars years ago and wears a fedora hat after injuries suffered in an attack in Notting Hill a decade ago.

But go back almost a quarter of a century, and he was dubbed “Gorgeous George”.

The nickname stemmed from boasts he made of having sex with women during a conference in Mykonos, Greece, shortly after first becoming an MP for Labour in the Glasgow Hillhead seat.

Galloway was dubbed ‘Gorgeous George’ for his boasts of sleeping with women at a conference in Greece
Galloway was dubbed ‘Gorgeous George’ for his boasts of sleeping with women at a conference in Greece (Independent)

He said: “I travelled and spent lots of time with people in Greece, many of whom were women, some of whom were known carnally to me. I actually had sexual intercourse with some of the people in Greece.”

Sacked by TalkRadio

Galloway obviously enjoys being in the media spotlight – but at TalkRadio in 2019, his comments on a link between Tottenham Hotspur and Israel triggered outrage with criticism led by the football club.

It came after he said Liverpool’s victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final meant there would be “no Israel flags on the cup”.

Tottenham hit back with a statement calling for him to be sacked. It said: “It’s astounding in this day and age to read such blatant antisemitism published on a social platform by someone who is still afforded air time on a radio station on which he has previously broken broadcast impartiality rules.”

Not long later, the radio station sacked Mr Galloway, who had presented a Friday night programme called The Mother of All Talk Shows since 2016.

On social media, Mr Galloway said he had been given a “red card” from the broadcaster for “over-celebrating” Liverpool’s win.

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