Former Labour and Respect MP George Galloway has announced that he is to stand as a candidate in the Holyrood elections.
Galloway, one of the most abrasive characters in UK politics, declared at a press conference in a Glasgow restaurant that there were too many "non-entities" serving as MSPs and that there was a need for a "heavyweight parliamentarian". I'm not too sure that Galloway could be realistically termed a heavyweight, but delusion has fuelled many a political career.
He arrogantly proclaims that celebrity culture should be central to Scottish politics: "It's my contention, you may think it's rude, but I think it's accurate, that today's Scottish Parliament has too few real parliamentarians in it - [most of them] would [not] be recognised outside their own street, [or their] voice recognised if heard on the radio," he said. In a word, he'll be a better MSP because he's been better at attracting media attention. Following this logic, Ally McCoist or David Coulthard would be better MSPs than George Galloway because...oh, hang on, they would!
Perhaps Glasgow's voters will opt for a deluded, self-promoting egomaniac with an inflated view of his own importance and a love of his own voice. Perhaps. Then again, they might prefer to vote for someone with a record of working for their community, or someone with tolerant, sensible and moderate ideas for changing Scotland for the better - you know, the type who pragmatically prefer to get things done rather than rant about how bad things are while defending totalitarian regimes.
Galloway looks set to stand in the Regional list, although has apparently not decided whether to stand for Respect or as an independent candidate. There are possibilities for Galloway, especially as he appears to have the cash to bankroll his campaign and is well-equipped to step into the void created by the implosion of the SSP. While he and his party will surely have only minimal appeal, achieving the 6-7% of the vote required for a seat via the regional list may not be beyond him. He will, however, face competition for the far-left vote from the SSP and Gail Sheridan, who is standing for her husband's rapidly diminishing band of sycophants euphemistically named Solidarity.
Galloway has a pop at Alex Salmond and Iain Gray, calling them "the political equivalent of the Krankies". If that is the kind of limp excuse for political debate that he hopes to bring to Holyrood, maybe it's best for everyone concerned if he quits now. Galloway's press conference was notably devoid of any talk on policy, but obviously that kind of detail doesn't matter if you're George Galloway.
He's of the same political ilk as that other self-proclaimed defender of the workers - Tommy Sheridan. The difference is that at least Sheridan was a man connected with his community whose personal touch helped generate both respect and loyalty. Galloway has staked everything on his reputation as a "heavyweight" and this is a gamble that could backfire. I seriously can not see him endearing himself to Glasgow's voters as a workers' champion. His socialism is too obviously of the "champagne" variety, his rhetoric tinged with resentment and his agenda dictated by personal grudges. He represents nobody's cause but his own.
The only things Galloway has going for him are his opposition to the Iraq invasion (surely of negligible significance nine years on) and his public profile. He clearly thinks he's someone special; the question is, what do Glasgow's voters think of him? No doubt the media will give him a disproportionate amount of (undeserved) free coverage in the run-up to the election, but I hope that Glaswegians have the courage, the strength and the indefatigability to reject this self-indulgent nonentity at the polls in May.