The inexcusable outing of ‘Gorgeous George

On the 26th of April, the New Statesman made a bold and rather confusingly timed claim that George Galloway, the new MP for Bradford West is a Muslim. It is worrying that instead of attacking Mr Galloway on his political record or the policies which his Respect party support, as should be the case in political debate, the mainstream media has resorted to personal attacks and slander against him and his supporters. This was the latest in a long list of articles and allegations made about Mr Galloway in the British Press and by other politicians, many of which are unfounded.
Firstly, I think it is important to state outright that I was not a fan of Mr Galloway. I was deeply sceptical in his choice of Bradford West as a platform to relaunch his career given his decision not to stand in by elections in Oldham East and Saddleworth, Leicester South and Feltham and Heston. I disagree with the focus he and the Respect Party place on Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine and am troubled by the rhetoric that some of their supporters use. In addition to this I find his sense of self importance nothing short of annoying (note his claims that the result in Bradford West was the “most sensational victory” in by-election history). On a childish note, I have also said that my commute down Manningham Lane, one of the main thoroughfares through the Bradford West constituency, was made infinitely worse because of the giant posters of him plastered everywhere.
Despite all of this it is crucial to note Mr Galloway campaigned in Bradford on genuine local issues something Labour plain forgot about. For those who do not know Bradford, the city centre has been left a mess due to nearly two decades of Bradford Council’s ineptitude, lax planning policy and in-fighting. The Bradford Odeon, a massive landmark building that is very popular with the local residents, has been left to slowly deteriorate overshadowing the new £24m City Park which contains Western Europe’s largest city centre water feature . The proposed Westfield Shopping Centre, which was claimed would revitalise the city centre has been left abandoned after many historic buildings (including Fosters Square which a main city centre station in Bradford is named after) were demolished leaving only a giant hole and a patch of grass for the EDL can congregate on. On these and many other issues, the people of Bradford feel their council and the three main parties have failed. Mr Galloway has also vowed to tackle unemployment in the city especially amongst the youth.
Aside from talking about his own achievements, a topic Mr Galloway never shies away from, he has largely chosen to avoid talking about his own private life and this should be respected. Many politicians are usually keen to talk about their families or their religious piousness but not George. He has been asked about his religion in interviews previously and has chosen to refuse to enter it into the public domain despite the political gains that could be made in a constituency with a large politically active Muslim community. Therefore for Jemima Khan and the New Statesman to decide to make this an issue is nothing short of disgusting, especially from a left wing magazine that is often critical of others in the media who participate in this kind of journalism.
An individual’s faith, like their sexuality is their private business and if they chose to talk about it in public like many politicians and celebrities do, then it is fair to discuss it. What Ms Khan has done is comparable to The Sun’s outing’ of Jessie J or any other tabloid media’s outing of a celebrity’s sexuality. It is worrying that Instead of analysing Mr Galloway’s election result or his political record in a rational unbiased way, a paper of the New Statesman’s stature has resorted to tactics unfitting of the papers reputation.
Mr Galloway and Respect are not alone in being mocked and slighted by the political media mainstream. The Liberal Democrats (prior to 2010 anyway) and now Green Party has also had to deal with the belittling and condescending tactics of a political system, of which the press are part of, where anything other than orthodoxy is treated with disrespect and ridicule.