Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What was the Cambridge Arts Theatre thinking?

Norm has a great post that includes a clear case - he quotes the letter with permission - for questioning Cambridge Arts Theatre hosting an evening with GG. Mind, I think raising even the word "rationale" in relation to events involving this man is problematic: motivation for hosting the evening? Publicity? Money? The usual things associated with GG?

PS if you think I'm being harsh on GG, you clearly haven't been to Harry's Place where he is a regular feature for commentary...

1 comment:

Rob said...

As Normblog doesn't permit comments, I shall post one here, and you can share it with Norm.

Re Matthew Kramer's letter: he is obviously correct in stating that George Galloway was not expelled from the LP for opposing the Iraq war. However, the reasons which were given by the LP for his expulsion are scarcely more credible. (1) He incited troops in Iraq to disobey orders on the grounds that the war was illegal. Well, it was illegal, and disobeying illegal orders is strictly speaking the duty of every soldier. So he's expelled for reminding British troops of their duty? (2) He was accused of inciting Arabs to attack British troops. Well, GG always denied that (the only charge he did deny IIRC). All I've googled up is a call for Arab leaders to "stand by the Iraqi people", and it's probably stretching a point to call that incitement to attack British troops. In any case, when it comes to the Iraqis themselves, people's right to mount armed resistance to invading forces on their territory (though not against civilians, and not outwith their own borders) is recognised by the United Nations. (3) He congratulated a Socialist Alliance candidate who defeated a Labour candidate in a Preston council election. Since when was congratulating a winning candidate grounds for party expulsion? William Hague congratulated Tony Blair after the last general election, but the Tories didn’t expel him for it. (4) He threatened to stand as an independent in his constituency if he were to be expelled from the Labour party. Well, he could hardly stand as a Labour member, could he, if he'd been expelled?

So while GG wasn't expelled for his opinion on the war, the dodgy reasons which were cited give rise to reasonable suspicion, both within the LP and outside it, that he was expelled for his consistent and vehement expression of that opinion. Prof. Kramer has merely replaced George's spin with Downing Street's. It would be truer, I think, to say that he was expelled for being a loose cannon and an embarrassment to the Prime Minister: but the LP could hardly say that.

I'm not sure which anti-Semitic (as opposed to anti-Israeli) remarks by GG he is referring to. Out of interest I googled George's name and 'anti-Semitic' and all the references I got back were to his description of Louise Ellman as "Israel's MP on Merseyside". Which may be tasteless, but as she is the vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel it’s probably a valid metaphor. It wouldn’t surprise me, given GG’s intemperate rhetoric, if he had slipped over from time to time from anti-Israeli-policy statements to anti-Israel ones (as in, anti-legitimacy-of-the-state-of-Israel). Such statements tend to be viewed as anti-Semitic, and in most cases I have no doubt that is the case. However, Prof. Kramer explicitly excludes such remarks from his accusation, so I would be interested to know what he had in mind. I’m not saying he’s wrong, but I’d be interested to see some of the quotations he offers to supply.

Galloway is no saint, to be sure, and I certainly don't share or even understand his admiration for Saddam Hussein. (Though it has appalled me in recent months to read comments from people who had been imprisoned or beaten by Saddam's thugs, saying that they thought life had been better in Iraq before the invasion. Now that is deeply worrying.) Professor Kramer complains of GG’s support for Saddam and other ‘fascist tyrants’. Would he, I wonder, be voicing similar objections had Baroness Thatcher been invited to speak, given her public support for General Pinochet?

If Prof. Kramer’s complaint really is solely that the Cambridge Arts Theatre plans to mount an event unconnected with the performing arts (though I suspect there is more to it than that) then that's fair enough. I would be surprised, though, if this is the first time CAT have done so and I don’t suppose it breaches any of their Articles of Association. I assume CAT mount events like this to raise money; given the low level of government support for the performing arts in Britain, one can hardly blame them.

In any case, given the proportions of style and substance in any appearance by GG that I've ever seen they could probably argue that he is, indeed, a theatrical performer.