Wednesday, 28 March 2012

George Galloway sues but he probably won't sue you

According to Bradford's Telegraph and Argus newspaper, George Galloway is taking legal action against a Labour councillor for sending an allegedly libellous text in the run up to tomorrow's by election.

Galloway is famous for his legal action against the Telegraph and he sued Oona King during the 2005 General Election - and then threatened to sue her again.

This use of libel laws may prevent the spread of lies but can have an intimidating effect on legitimate critics.

Galloway's press office threatened me in 2005 and, in my view, tried to get me sacked. It was pretty scary knowing his track record. But his bark was worse than his bite which, hopefully, will reassure people with real concerns that they can voice them.

In the run up to the General Election I had written an article questioning whether Galloway had, as he claimed, been taken hostage and had his life threatened by extremists in a Stepney community centre. (This and other tactics he used during the 2005 General Election are explored here: Bradford vs Bethnal Green)

Following publication of the article I got an email from the Respect press office entitled "The End" which said: "There is no point trying any more to ask for balance or fairness in your coverage. I don't even propose to go into the one-sidedness of your most recent nonsense. I have the video of the event and no doubt we will use it in our complaint to the PCC, which we will be launching. You seem to place greater weight on the words of a tiny band of violent extremists, who openly claim they disrupted an earlier meeting, than George's. This people believe it is acceptable to kill non-believers, as any study of their materials would confirm, and believe it is a crime against god to vote. But gullible journalists are happy to indulge their thirst for publicity."

We never heard any more about the PCC and the police have yet to classify the incident as a hostage taking.

This exchange came a few weeks after Galloway tried (in my view) to get me sacked from my job as a political reporter for the East London Advertiser.

A fax from Bangladesh to my then editor said: "As you know I have a long and often bitter experience with the press but I have never in more than 30 years of public life come across such brazenly disreputable behaviour which must contravene professional codes and certainly renders him persona non grata so far as I and my colleagues are concerned.

"Consequently I would be most grateful in any future dealings with me, or Respect in general, you would assign another reporter to make contact with us as we will not be prepared to conduct any business with this individual henceforth."

I didn't lose my job and the East London Advertiser was never sued by George Galloway (as far as I know!).

(I noticed this tweet from BBC's Len Tingle describing an unfriendly personal exchange he had with George Galloway in which the prospective MP said: "don't know where they got you from you're a liability".)

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