“Can we speak outside, once you’ve written your name down?” said a voice from my left. “Uh, sure, just gimme a minute,” I replied, having not checked to whom I was speaking. But before I knew it, my colleague Sarkis and I were being ushered back outside, and told in no uncertain terms that the event organisers were minded to keep us out of George Galloway’s London Mayor campaign launch.
“You’re not onside…” said watchman James, before gently lecturing us on our political leanings, while keeping an eye on some Jewish girls from North London who were about to “intimidate” 10 grown men from the anti-Israel “Rabbinical” sect Neturei Karta.
James – who was a perfectly reasonable chap, albeit with a “splitting headache” as he kept reminding us – seemed nervous of Breitbart London being in the audience for Mr Galloway’s shindig at Conway Hall, a sort of Fuhrerbunker of Britain’s hard-left in the heart of London.
“Aren’t you a UKIP activist?” he asked. “Was,” I replied. “George and Nigel are friends, you know?” he asked. I was supposed to be surprised. “I know,” and we chatted some more. James was worried I wouldn’t reflect the fact that he was keeping people out to keep the peace inside the meeting. Well here I am reflecting it. James kept the three, pretty, young Jewish girls out, along with one young not-so-attractive Jewish man out. Though maybe that’s just a personal preference. He also kept out an Iraqi-born pro-Israel activist.
I told him that I have some sympathy with him – having helped put on over 30 public meetings for Nigel Farage in the past six months. Security is always a nightmare. But believe me when I say these Jewish girls, and even the bloke to be honest, couldn’t have caused a problem if they tried. In fact, it might have added some much-needed pizzaz to the evening’s events.
I’ll be totally honest. The audience was more diverse than I had expected – although the security guards weren’t. The chairman for the evening was a pretty blonde lady, and Mr Galloway’s warm up act was none other than Max Keiser – the weird, sort-of-free-market-but-not-really-type critic of fractional reserve banking. I know, it’s yawn-inducing stuff. Which is perhaps why Mr Keiser was screaming at the audience about the rich waging a war on them. Solid, left-wing populism. There’s the theme for the night, I thought.
And the main event didn’t stray far from that mark. Gorgeous George spoke for almost 40 minutes, not about Israel. Not about Iran. Not about Tony Blair. Well, a little about Tony Blair. But he was and is clearly changing his narrative in the run up to next year. Tonight was all about social housing, the bankers, the City of London, and, bizarrely, Uber.
Actually Galloway must have spoken for a sum total of 10 minutes about Uber alone, even admitting that he was partly so interested in it because he saw there were over 25,000 votes from London’s black cab drivers and their families. Not cynical at all, and certainly not hypocritical when standing in front of a sign that reads, “A London for All” while shouting about “running Uber out of town”.
But it’ll be a London for some under Galloway, it seems. Some of his mates, perhaps? When he’s in charge, he’ll attract investment from “Russia, China, Latin America and the Arab World”. Ah yes, those bastions of political freedom and financial transparency! “Wahey!” cheered the crowd, possibly unaware that the sign behind Galloway may as well have read, “Blatter for London” at this point.
Oh and he’ll make London the “crypto-currency capital of the world”. Somehow this makes things more transparent and regulated. Crypto-currencies. CRYPT…oh forget it.
I have to admit though, I didn’t leave the meeting feeling as dirty as I thought I would. Perhaps my new mate James was right – maybe Galloway’s not all bad? Or maybe it’s because he distinctly changed tack tonight – in fact, inserting “metropolitan elite” and “establishment” into his speech at certain points.
There were times I could have sworn I was back at a UKIP public meeting – except Nigel is wittier, more sincere, and doesn’t hobble around the stage half as badly as Galloway, who’s been attacked a couple of times and is ageing quite poorly.
And Galloway even said he wanted to win some UKIP voters over – without boos and hissing from the crowd. Blow me down. Maybe I wasn’t as unwelcome as I was made to feel at the outset. No. Snap out of it Raheem. This is George Galloway we’re talking about here.
And now you see how dangerous he could be as a Mayoral candidate. He told the crowd if he builds a solid base, and gets enough second preference votes, he sees a path to victory. His electoral maths isn’t half bad as we know. Perhaps we all need to get out there and start campaigning. Because “Mayor George Galloway” is just about the worst thing that could happen to London. How do I know? Call it a crypto-hunch.