LONDON, United Kingdom – Socialist firebrand George Galloway tonight launched his campaign to become Mayor of London in what can be accurately described as a surprisingly low key event. His speech, though scattered with left-wing populism, was almost understated as he attempted to woo the Sunday night audience of about 175 dedicated followers.
Galloway kept well clear of his usual colourful invective aimed at “the venal, the vile, the racists and the Zionists”. Perhaps the only truly controversial moments occurred outside the venue before the speech, and even those were tame by comparison.
Several people arriving at central London’s Conway Hall found that their presence was not welcome inside the venue. Careful vetting of those who had signed up to attend led to a number of those intending to hear the speech being turned away for fear that they might cause trouble.
In one case a lady was turned away having been recognised as someone who vocally opposed Galloway on a recent episode of BBC’s Question Time. Another few were denied entry having been identified as supporters of Israel. One man wearing a yarmulke was told that the venue was full, despite roughly a quarter of seats being empty. Representatives of Mr Galloway denied that this had anything to do with anti-Semitism or profiling, citing the presence of representatives of Neturei Karta, the group labelled “Orthodox Jews United Against Zionism”.
Representatives of Breitbart London were initially barred after registering as media attendees. Other media guests included the Iranian stated-funded Press TV. Breitbart London journalists were told that the organisation was not “on side” with Galloway’s campaign and may not be allowed to enter. Having checked the credentials of the Breitbart team, entry was eventually permitted after the event had begun but before Galloway had taken to the stage.
Galloway was preceded by warm up act, Max Keiser, the presenter of Russia Today‘s financial news programme, The Keiser Report. He was introduced as Galloway’s future financial adviser, and indeed Mr Galloway went on to say he’d be “finance minister” under Galloway’s mayoralty, even though the London Mayor doesn’t have ministers working underneath him.
Keiser said that the campaign will be one “of love” although sounded notes of class war with comments such as “the rich are at war with everyone else, it’s no secret.”
And Galloway’s speech was what one might expect from a candidate firmly rooted in the Labour Party of old. He made no mention of the usual suspects, perhaps acknowledging that his audience on the night was not the usual Respect Party crowd – and that he needed to strike a more upbeat, London-centric tone to his campaign. His rhetoric was Farage-esque in its anti-establishment tone. His branding was almost identical to the Boris Johnson campaign for mayor.
In an attempt to broaden his appeal groups such as bankers, foreign investors, private landlords, the City of London and capitalist upstarts like Uber all came under fire. Describing the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour parties as “three cheeks of the same arse”, he set himself up as a rejection of the “metropolitan elite.” Having criticised UKIP, he said he represented a similar “rejection of mainstream political parties” and stated that he wanted to win some of their 4m general election voters over next year.
Galloway attacked “the capitalism of Cameron” – using the Alton Towers ride crash as a peg on which to hook his message of more regulation, and more health and safety. He talked of 1940s street parties in London for the Battle of Britain anniversary, of reminding people of London’s “Blitz spirit” and bizarrely, of capital punishment for the City of London’s miscreant bankers.
The launch was not one to set the world on fire. But it was one that should worry the Labour candidate at next year’s London Mayorals. Galloway was everywhere a left-wing candidate needs to be on the issues that matter to London’s socialists. The Labour Party on the other hand, are likely to offer little but more corporatism, a la Blair, Brown, and Miliband. Game on.