There’s been a certain amount of (entirely justifiable) anger and confusion from many Labour supporters today at reports in the Mail on Sunday that Ed Miliband met George Galloway in his Westminster office recently. The spin from the Mail – to the surprise of no-one at all – was that “Red” Ed Miliband was attempting some form of reconciliation with George Galloway, in an attempt to have him rejoin the Labour Party.
Thankfully, this is not the case.
A senior source in Miliband’s office told me this afternoon that this was “certainly not about reconciling with Galloway”, whilst another told me that “there is no possibility, prospect or chance of George Galloway rejoining the Labour Party”. Allowing him to rejoin the party would happen over my dead body – and I suspect a substantial proportion of the party membership feel the same way.
In fact, the meeting was about a rather more prosaic – but crucial – matter, the boundary changes vote that at the time looked like it might come down to just one or two votes. All parties in Parliament (except the Tories) were approached, and it paid dividends as the boundary changes fell. A Labour Party spokesperson confirmed that this afternoon, saying:
“There is no attempt to bring George Galloway back into the Labour Party as many of his views are unacceptable and extreme. Ed met him purely as a courtesy to discuss the recent vote on changing parliamentary boundaries. No communication has taken place since.”
And since their meeting, George Galloway has been attacked by Miliband loudly and publicly, with the Labour leader branding his decision to walk out on a debate with an Israeli student “shameful behaviour”, and saying:
“I was shocked by that. It’s one of a long line of things he has done and that’s the sort of behaviour we should not tolerate. The idea that he would refuse to debate him because he was Israeli is totally wrong and disgraceful.”
Those are not the words of someone who is trying to bring Galloway back into the fold – despite Galloway’s apparent desire to return to the Labour Party – but this kind of behaviour (alongside his recent praise for North Korea’s totalitarian culture as “cohesive, pristine, innocent”) is exactly why he should be considered untouchable for any Labour leader. There are some places you just shouldn’t go – even for something as important as the boundaries vote. If George Galloway’s is the one vote you need to pass legislation then you need to look at getting the votes from elsewhere – or lose.
It’s evident too that this news has been leaked out today as part of an anti-Miliband briefing operation that has been ramping up lately. And whilst it would be easy to rage against those (quite possibility within the Labour Party) who are pushing this stuff, if you invite George Galloway into the Opposition Leader’s office – even if it’s just out of courtesy, and even if it’s for a good reason – you’re creating a hostage to fortune that, once it’s revealed, you can do very little about.
Ed Miliband knew exactly what he was inviting into his office that day. And whilst a small part of me admires his hard-headed pragmatism and determination to win a crucial Commons vote, a larger part of me thinks – it’s Galloway, what were you thinking Ed? That man – after everything he has said and done – doesn’t even deserve your courtesy.