LS Exclusive: An interview with Galloway
I meet Galloway in a hastily put together green room upstairs in Leeds University Union just half an hour before his first Question Time appearance as an MP in seven years. I didn’t expect any nerves from a man who has met Saddam Hussein, taken on Tony Blair, was banned from Canada and, of course, pretended to be a cat on live TV – but I certainly hadn’t expected this level of calm collectedness.
I suppose it’s been a busy few weeks for Mr Galloway. “I’ve had busier”, he replies.
Galloway’s looking surprisingly good considering the political whirlwind ensuing his victory. Perhaps something to do with the fact he’s teetotal?
He laughs – “you better not do what the last Leeds Student guy did; the last interview I did with one of your reporters was the closest I’ve ever come to suing. He caught me gargling a special potion I used to drink to help my voice and one of your guys said I’d been drinking whisky!” he says, eventually laughing.
I ask him about remarks he recently made about spreading the influence of the Respect party across the North, to cities like Leeds. “Leeds is a big part of our target audience”, he confirms, “it’s got a big student population, a lot of black and ethnic minority residents, a lot of white working class people and a big public sector too.”
I ask him about Labour MP Harriet Harman’s accusation that he only won in Bradford because he only pandered to the concerns of the young Muslim population. He’s visibly annoyed. “Harriet Harman wouldn’t know Bradford West if she walked into it and frankly, I’m happy that the area’s young Muslim population played a massive role in my victory there. That’s something to be proud of, not embarrassed about. After all, aren’t we always lecturing young Muslims about the values of engaging with democracy and society?’
George is known for walking out of interviews so I change the topic to what he would bring to Leeds. “Well, we opposed tuition fees and all the other parties support the war in Afghanistan and believe in the austerity agenda…”
But what about Leeds? “What do you mean? All those things affect Leeds residents.” I explain that many of his critics accuse him of only caring about national issues. One of his minders is trying to cut off the interview, but George is enjoying this. “Look, Leeds is a city that is booming but not many people here are actually enjoying that growth – that’s why our economic plans, our anti-racism, anti-war plans are as appealing in Leeds as they are anywhere else in the North.”
I wrap it up by asking him whether he has a message for readers of the Leeds Student. “I’m coming” he replies as he walks to face the cameras.