At around 3AM last Friday morning, George Galloway emerged from a Bradford leisure centre to a crowd of hundreds of baying supporters. They bore him aloft through the streets. Then they plonked him down inside a Hummer, and drove him to his campaign HQ in Grattan Road. Here, he was given a megaphone. He duly gave that megaphone a piece of his mind.
“All praise to Allah!” began Gorgeous George, a Roman Catholic, not a Muslim.
“Allah!” returned the crowd, “Allah!” These people were fundamentally Muslims, not Roman Catholics pretending to be Muslims, like George.
In Bow, 2005, warming his RESPECT manifesto off the still-hot political coals of Iraq, George didn't have to display such extraordinary brass neck in order to swing the votes of a disaffected minority. Seven years on, though, to many the sting has gone out of George's favourite stump speech, to the extent that he was forced to become an amateur Muslim in order to win over his astonishing new majority. Political street fighter that he is, George has killer instinct for winning, at whatever cost. And so it is that he has been opening his well-thumbed copy of Islam For Dummies, sneaking references and insinuations into his literature in order to portray himself as a more prophet-based life-form. And toning down, blacking out, and suppressing all the stuff about gay rights that you might expect a man of such impeccably hard-left credentials to want to shout about. You can't shout about those things when you're trying to bed yourself in with clerical conservatism, and George well knows it.
One flyer that went through letterboxes the week before the polls had him addressing: "Voters of the Muslim faith and Pakistani heritage in Bradford West", in which he tried to make out that he was a better Muslim than his Labour opponent, an actual Muslim, not a Roman Catholic pretending to be a Muslim. "God KNOWS who is Muslim. And he KNOWS who is not. Instinctively, so do you. Let me point out to all the Muslim brothers and sisters what I stand for," he wrote, giving a series of four reasons which included "I, George Galloway, do not drink alcohol and never have. Ask yourself if the other candidate in this election can say that truthfully."
The other candidate, a 34-year-old Labour barrister called Imran Hussain, was subject to a widespread whispering campaign, in which team George tried to get him painted as a man who liked a tipple. “Thirsty Imran Hussain (hic) likes his refreshments,” tittered the pro-George Muslim Public Affairs Committee in one of their publications, “and campaigning in this unseasonably good weather is thirsty work indeed.”
“I’m a better Pakistani than he [Hussain] will ever be,” Galloway had said at an election rally. “God knows who’s a Muslim and who is not. And a man that’s never out of the pub shouldn’t be going around telling people you should vote for him because he’s a Muslim.”
Except of course, that Galloway is not a Muslim. He's just a man with balls the size of diving bells who has shown yet again that he is a political genius whose genius hinges on the fact that he will say pretty much anything in order to get elected. We all await the day when the people of Bradford West tire of Mr Gorgeous, and he moves on to the great Stamford Hill by-election of 2016.
“Don't kvetch with me,” he will dreidel. “Palestine, Zion: these are just two words for the holy land God has long since promised to good Jews like me. Now, let's all have another Jaffa orange, do some more mitzvot and get in the Volvo.”
Perhaps it is simply that Galloway understands the literal meaning of Islam: "submission", as: "submission to that which improves George Galloway's lifestyle". Understandably enough, given his talent for storming out of interviews, he might argue that there is no higher path to righteousness than the day that a man lays down his own ego and yokes himself to believing in the saviour of the one true Labour Party.
But in the meantime, he still has a lot of work to do on his present disguise. When Galloway was 900 lines deep into his victory speech, he made the sort of schoolboy error you just wouldn't have got with Hussain, an actual Muslim. He invited everyone to join him for an FA Cup-style open top bus tour of the city around midday the next day. “What about Jumu'ah?" someone in the crowd shouted out. And it was then that Galloway realised that, yes, come to think of it, Muslims do rather like to pray around midday on a Friday.
The tour was duly postponed until 2.30PM. George went back to his copy of The Qu'ran For Infidels, and maybe made a note to rein in a little of that extraordinary brass neck.
Follow Gavin on Twitter: @hurtgavinhaynes
Illustration by Joss Frank