George Galloway Speaks

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George Galloway

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Congestion charge rip-off

George Galloway has written to every member of the London Assembly about the websites which rip-off motorists by appearing to be official ones to pay congestion charges. In fact they levy a healthy premium and are probably illegal.
 
The text of the letter is here:
 
Dear London Assembly Member,
 
You may have seen the ITV London News at 6pm last night, the excellent top item of which was a story from Simon Harris about the unofficial websites that exist to rip off London’s motorists trying to pay the congestion charge online. I tabled a motion in parliament (see link below) in early September after my chief of staff, an Oxbridge graduate no less, was conned by such a website and I then discovered these websites had been in existence for a long time conning and ripping off an untold number of London motorists. The sites are deliberately designed to look like an official site and the people behind them manipulate google so that their site comes first when you google, say, “pay congestion charge”.
 
I further discovered that TfL were well aware of these sites, had taken legal advice which was that they were illegal but had not, apparently, had them closed down or even warned motorists to beware of these unofficial sites. I therefore wrote to the Mayor four weeks ago about this but I have yet to receive a reply.
 
This is not just a question of motorists being ripped off by £6 if they pay through an unofficial site. There is clearly a question of a very large amount of financial data, specifically credit and debit card details, getting into the hands of the unidentified and mysterious perpetrators of these sites.
 
Val Shawcross was quite right, when interviewed yesterday, to call for urgent action against these websites. The very least TfL should have done is to run a publicity campaign against them and sought Google’s help in making sure the official site was the first to be encountered when googling to pay the congestion charge.
 
But these sites are clearly an illegal con. They offer no service which isn’t just a sneaky way to try and get round the law. If there is any doubt about this, the Mayor should have gone to the government to get them to legislate to make the official TfL site the only site via which the congestion charge can legally be paid.
 
I am therefore urging you to bring whatever pressure you can on the Mayor and TfL to act urgently on this matter to safeguard London motorists, of which I am one, against being ripped off and their financial security compromised.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
George Galloway, MP for Bradford West
 
 
EDM tabled on 10th September 2013 - http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/504
 
Monday, 7 October 2013

Galloway submits parliamentary motions on soldiers' sectarianism and MPs extra allowances

George Galloway today submitted two parliamentary motions which should appear on the order paper tomorrow (Tuesday) or Wednesday.
 
British soldiers and sectarianism
 
That this House condemns the reprehensible and ill-disciplined behaviour of members of the Armed Forces including some Royal Marine soldiers at Ibrox Park, the home of Glasgow Rangers, on Saturday 28th September 2013 on what was dubbed an “armed forces' day”; notes the sickening scenes as they chanted songs attacking Catholics, embraced braying fans and held up sectarian banners; questions the role of the senior officers who apparently sanctioned the event and appeared to take no action to halt the behaviour; and demands that those marines who joined in this hatefest are severely disciplined.  
 
 
 The bedroom tax and MPs’ allowances
 
That this House notes that under the bedroom tax more than 600,000 social tenants with spare rooms must either move or pay an average of £14-a-week penalty; further notes that  members of parliament with a spare room in their London homes can claim an additional allowance if a child or children routinely resides with them; notes that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has ruled that they will still be eligible for the additional allowance if the child visits just once a month; condemns the 29 hypocritical MPs who, while backing the bedroom tax, have claimed an additional £64,000 and a further 20 who claimed £37,000; and urges the government to end this unfair allowance which can only reflect badly with members of the public.
Monday, 30 September 2013

Galloway's Blair film passes £100k


Respect MP George Galloway and Hove-based Director Scott Imren have raised more than £100,000 on the website Kickstarter for their documentary film 'The Killing of Tony Blair' which, as Galloway hopes, will be the first step in a campaign to get Blair tried for war crimes in an international court.  

According to the filmmakers it will document how Blair killed the Labour party, his policies led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and how he has made a financial 'killing' since leaving office.

Setting a target to raise of £50,000 in 40 days on Kickstarter, the campaign hit £20,000 within one day, passed £50,000 in less than a week and currently stands at over £110,000 making it the highest crowd-funded documentary film ever in the UK.

"I knew that there were thousands of people throughout the world who despise Tony Blair for the wars he led the UK into," said Galloway, "but people have really put their money behind their convictions. I am stunned and humbled by the response. I hope this film will just be the first step in putting Blair in the dock in the Hague." 

Imren added: "Crowd funding sites like Kickstarter are allowing film makers to bypass traditional television commissioners and film studios and talk directly to their audiences. We are already getting lots of feedback from our backers alongside many offers of help.  It is a truly liberating and interactive experience."

They are hoping to capitalise on this early success and raise enough to make a feature length film for worldwide cinema release which will need at least £250k.

One of the offers of help came from Steve Finnerty of Alabama 3, who wrote the theme tune for The Sopranos.  Scott and Steve are now in talks about collaborating. "It would be great to work with the guys who wrote the music for a series about a gangster called Tony!".

Director Spike Lee is also using Kickstarter to fund his latest film in the US. Last month he exceeded his target of $1.25 million to raise over $1.4 million.

Links:



Thursday, 26 September 2013

The scandal of stop and search


Lee Jasper argues that the Tory-led coalition has purged all traces of anti-racism and multiculturalism while following the French model

May I apologise in advance dear reader this is rather long article. It seeks to deal with issues that a rarely covered elsewhere in any depth and so by its very nature has become a complex read. I hope nevertheless you will take the time to read it as I have laboured long in writing this for you. Get a cup of tea, relax and put your feet up.

You will no doubt not completely agree with all I have written here, but in prompting debate its important that there is compelling argument. 

I didn’t submit a consultation response to the Governments snap 8 week summer consultation on the police power of stop and search. After 30 years of an almost relentless rise in rates of stop and search under Tory, Labour and now a Tory led Coalition Government and countless consultations I really didn't see much point. 
There are number of other reasons why I chose not to formally submit a view, but primary among them was that I, along with many of Britain’s black communities, have zero confidence in the Government’s commitment to tackle racism either more broadly or within the criminal justice system in particular. 

Is she serious about reform? 
This Tory led Coalition government has engaged in an ideologically driven purge that has seen the gradual elimination and eradication of all traces of anti-racism or multiculturalism in Government policy. As far as race is concerned the Prime Minister has adopted the French model in dealing with racism  and determined no special provision, no focus on difference, no special interest group’s agenda’s and has given the issue zero political priority
Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Suffering under the Israeli-Egyptian siege

Waiting to pass the Rafah crossing

From Shahd Abusalama, courtesy of the Electronic Intifada. Shahd blogs as Palestine From My Eyes

I have tried many times to write about my experience at the closed Rafah border crossing with Egypt that has left thousands of people in Gaza stranded. Every time I start, a deep sigh comes over me. Shortly after I feel paralysed, and finish by tearing apart my draft.  I have never found it this difficult to write about a personal experience. No words can capture all the suffering and pain our people in Gaza deal with collectively under this suffocating, inhumane Israeli-Egyptian siege.

As I write, I am supposed to be somewhere in the sky, among the clouds, flying to Istanbul to begin my graduate studies. But I could not catch my flight, as I am still trapped in the besieged Gaza Strip, sitting in darkness during the power cuts caused by fuel crisis, trying to squeeze out my thoughts during what is left of my laptop’s charge.

As much as I am attached to Gaza City, where I was born and spent all 22 years of my life, each day I spend trapped in it makes me despise living here. Each day that passes makes me more desperate to set myself free outside this big, open-air prison. Each day makes me unable to stand the mounting injustice, torment, brutality and humiliation.

I have never experienced as many extreme ups and downs as I did this month. Despite the hardships throughout September, I also had some immensely happy moments. I think I will remember them the rest of my life. 
This is life in Gaza: highs amid lows, everything in the balance, nothing secure from day to day, no plans, no guarantees.

At the beginning of September, I started the process to secure my visa for Italy. I am supposed to be there on 10 October to celebrate the publication of my first book, the fruits of my work over more than three years of writing. It is the Italian version of my blog, Palestine from My Eyes, which I started in May 2010. My book launched on 22 September. It was impossible for me to attend its release in Italy.

My blog was never about me as an individual. It is rather about a young Palestinian woman who grew up in the alleys of a densely inhabited refugee camp with an imprisoned father. It is about a woman whose awareness of her Palestinian identity was shaped in a besieged city under the brutal Israeli occupation. My blog is about our people, who are routinely dehumanized and whose stories are marginalised and unknown to the majority outside. It was about our Palestinian political prisoners and their families, whose lost and missing loved ones have become statistics, numbers which fail to communicate all the injustices they face under the Israeli Prison Service, which denies them their most basic rights.

The book, inspired by the harsh and complex reality we are forced to endure, makes me feel that my responsibility as a voice for our Palestinian people has doubled. Some amazingly dedicated Italian friends are fixing a busy schedule of events, book fairs, conferences and presentations in many different cities. My presence in Italy is very important, because I am sure few people there have met Palestinians. I am anxiously waiting for the Rafah border to open so I can be there for these events, to help my book spread as widely as possible.

I read on Reuters last Tuesday: “According to Abbas’s request, Egypt agrees to reopen Rafah border crossing on Wednesday and Thursday for four working hours each.”

My first reaction was laughter. Where was Abbas while the Rafah border was closed to thousands of patients seeking medical care abroad which they cannot access in Gaza, or students whose dreams to pursue their education overseas were crushed?

We are not only paying the price for the unsettled situation in Egypt. We have even become the victims of our own divided Palestinian leadership. It makes me furious to think that the opening of Rafah crossing, a lifeline for our people in Gaza, has come under the influence of the internal division between political parties competing to seek favors from our colonizers. The ruling factions seem to have become participants in the collective punishment we suffer.

The headline infuriated rather than relieved me. Opening the Rafah border for eight hours over two days was not a solution to the crisis caused by the complete closure of Rafah for more than a week.

The same day, in the taxi heading home, I received a call telling me I finally got a visa to Italy. I was so happy I forgot the conservative nature of my society and started screaming out of happiness in the car. The visa process took shorter than I thought. I called my friend Amjad Abu Asab, who lives in Jerusalem and received my passport for me, since Israel prevents 

Palestinians in Gaza from visiting the city, urging him to find someone coming into Gaza via the northern Erez checkpoint on Wednesday.

This can be my chance to leave Wednesday or Thursday, I thought. My happiness didn’t last. “Erez checkpoint will be completely closed from Wednesday until Sunday, 22 September, because of the Jewish holidays,” Amjad said. “No express mail, and no person, can cross Erez to Gaza during this period.”

What an absurdity!” I screamed. “When the Rafah border crossing finally reopens, Erez checkpoint closes. We have to deal with Israel from one side and Egypt from the other. How long will we live at the mercy of others? There must be some emergency exit.”

The definition of uncertainty in the dictionary is Gaza,” my fellow Electronic Intifada writer Ali Abunimah once told me. That describes in short my life at the moment, and the lives of our people generally: a life of uncertainty.

I had no choice but to wait for the Jewish holidays to end for Erez to reopen and to get my passport. But on Wednesday, I insisted on going to Rafah. I refused to sit at home, powerless, unable to do anything but wait. At Rafah border crossing, I saw a gate of humiliation. People crowded on top of each other, roamed the waiting hall, waited impatiently for some news to revive their hopes, and ran after policemen, asking for help and explaining their urgent need to travel.

I met many of my fellow students who were stuck as well. They came with their luggage, hoping they could leave, but ended up dragging it back home.
I stayed until 2:00pm, hoping that I could at least register. I did, I think. I explained my situation to a policeman at the gate. He took my scanned copy of my passport and returned after about five minutes, saying, “Your name is registered.” I am not sure what he meant, but he did not say anything else. I asked him if there was a certain date I could leave. His reply was, “Only God knows.” I wish someone could tell me when I will be able to leave so I can have a break from worrying. But no one knows anything, “only God knows.”

While doing an interview with the Real News Network that morning at the border, an elegant elderly man in a formal black suit and holding a black bag interrupted. “I would like to make an interview,” he said. “I speak English, and if you like, I can do Hebrew.” The old man looked very serious as we awaited his poignant words. “This border, all this area, was mine. They came and stole it.” As he continued, the Real News crew and I realized the interview was descending into farce. “I have bombs in this bag and I can explode the whole place in a second!” the man said. We started laughing and said jokingly, “Go explode, then. We’re standing by you.” Yes, this Rafah gate of humiliation must be wiped away so we, Palestinian people in Gaza, can have some breath of freedom.

The Rafah border crossing closed again after 800 persons left to Egypt on Wednesday and Thursday. I am sure this closure would be easier to understand if it was a natural disaster. But knowing that other human beings are doing this to me and 1.7 million other civilians living in Gaza, while the rest of the world looks on, is too difficult to believe. It is more painful and shocking to realize that our neighboring Arab country, Egypt, is joining our Zionist jailers and collaborating with them to tighten the siege.

This experience made me believe that human dignity has become a joke. International law is nothing but empty, powerless words printed in books. We are denied our right to freedom of movement, our right to pursue our education, our right to good medical care, and our right to be free or to live in peace and security. But no one in power bothers to act.

I spent September worrying about the border and my dreams which may fade away if Rafah remains closed. This takes a lot of my energy and makes me suffer from lack of focus and sleep, and makes it hard for me to sit and express myself in writing or with a drawing. Our people’s tragedy caused by the ongoing closure of Rafah border continues, and the crisis is deepening. Living in Gaza under these circumstances is like being sentenced to a slow death. Act and set us free. It is time for these injustices we face on a daily basis to end. 


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Steve Bell at Labour's Brighton conference


What Miliband won't say today


Monday 23 September 2013 by Owen Jones in The Independent

Conference.
This isn’t just a party; it is a movement. We were founded with a historic mission: to be a voice for working people, for those who toil, who struggle, who keep Britain ticking each and every day. Those who slog away in our supermarkets, stacking shelves from the early hours; in call centres, glued to phones in those dark Satanic mills of our times; in hospitals, mending our sick; in schools, raising a new generation.

They may live in a sleepy Sussex village, or bustling inner-city Birmingham, or the windswept Highlands of Scotland. But they share this: their pockets are being emptied by a government making them pay for a crisis they had nothing to do with. Not since Queen Victoria sat on the throne have living standards fallen for so long. They have no greater ambition than to see their children flourish, but know they face a worse lot in life than the generation before them, the first time this has happened since VE-Day.

The Tories want me to be ashamed of millions of working people – the backbone of this country – bankrolling our Labour Party. They will be disappointed. But they will know this. We will ceaselessly expose them as a party bankrolled by hedge fund managers, bankers, legal loan sharks, asset strippers. A government of the rich, for the rich, by the rich.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Tony Benn hospitalised


Distinguished veteran politician Tony Benn was taken to hospital on Wednesday after complaining of feeling unwell.

"My best wishes and those of all progressive people go out to Tony," George Galloway said. "Get well soon. You are in our thoughts and prayers."

Netanyahu killed peace


The Guardian Friday 13 September

It's now clear: the Oslo peace accords were wrecked by Netanyahu's bad faith

I thought the peace accords 20 years ago could work, but Israel used them as cover for its colonial project in Palestine
OSLO ACCORDS avi
Shimon Peres, the Israeli foreign minister, signs the Oslo accords at the White House on 13 September 1993. Onlookers include Israel's PM, Yitzhak Rabin; Bill Clinton; and the PLO's Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Photograph: J David AKE/AFP
Exactly 20 years have passed since the Oslo accords were signed on the White House lawn. For all their shortcomings and ambiguities, the accords constituted a historic breakthrough in the century-old conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. It was the first peace agreement between the two principal parties to the conflict: Israelis and Palestinians.
The accords represented real progress on three fronts: the Palestine Liberation Organisation recognised the state of Israel; Israel recognised the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people; and both sides agreed to resolve their outstanding differences by peaceful means. Mutual recognition replaced mutual rejection. In short, this promised at least the beginning of a reconciliation between two bitterly antagonistic national movements. And the hesitant handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat clinched the historic compromise.
Thursday, 12 September 2013

Where John McCain gets his ammo

CNN) -- A lie about earning a Ph.D. cost a Syria expert her job as an analyst days after her op-ed in the Wall Street Journal was cited by Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain in congressional hearings about possible U.S. military action in the war-torn country.

Elizabeth O'Bagy, who was an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, said she had earned a doctorate from Georgetown University when she had not, the organization announced Wednesday.

"The Institute for the Study of War has learned and confirmed that, contrary to her representations, Ms. Elizabeth O'Bagy does not in fact have a Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University. ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O'Bagy's employment, effective immediately," the institute posted in an online statement Wednesday.

The president of the institute, Dr. Kim Kagan, said she was surprised to learn of O'Bagy's lie just before the former senior research analyst admitted it on Tuesday. The decision to terminate O'Bagy's employment at the institute was made later that day, Kagan said. "O'Bagy was hired a year ago as a research analyst, after she had been working as an intern at the institute for a few months. O'Bagy proved to be an exceptional researcher and analyst, and Kagan said she was "pleased and proud to move her forward."

Galloway on Daily Politics show


George Galloway jousted with the former head of MI5, Pauline Neville-Jones, on the BBC2 programme Daily Politics today. The debate was over Syria.

The, at times, heated debate can be seen on the BBC iPlayer if you are in the UK.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The silent military coup that took over Washington


This time it's Syria, last time it was Iraq. 

Vietnam dioxin
Children, many of whose deformities are believed to be the results of the chemical dioxin that the US used in the Vietnam war, play outside a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
On my wall is the Daily Express front page of September 5 1945 and the words: "I write this as a warning to the world." So began Wilfred Burchett's report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror.
Almost every day now, he is vindicated. The intrinsic criminality of the atomic bombing is borne out in the US National Archives and by the subsequent decades of militarism camouflaged as democracy. The Syria psychodrama exemplifies this. Yet again we are held hostage by the prospect of a terrorism whose nature and history even the most liberal critics still deny. The great unmentionable is that humanity's most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Galloway demands answers over secret payment to chief constable


Why was more than £70,000 a year in paid in perks to West Yorkshire Chief Constable Norman Bettison kept secret from the public? That is one of the questions Bradford West MP George Galloway is asking in the House of Commons, and of the man who signed-off on the deal, West Yorkshire's present police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.


Bettison, now Sir Norman Bettison, was the beneficiary of the secret deal in 2009 with the West Yorkshire Police Authority, whose chairman at the time was Burns-Williamson. 'This sweetheart deal gave Bettison more than £34,000 a year for a private car, although he already had a police one and driver,' said Galloway. 'Additionally he got private medical insurance, gym membership and other personal benefits. So in total he must have received over £200,000 in public money, which the public knew nothing about, over and above his salary of £170,000 a year.

'My motion put down today asks why this deal was done behind closed doors and shrouded from scrutiny. And if it is argued that it was a good deal for the taxpayer then why wasn't the taxpayer told about it at the time? You may draw your own conclusions.'

Additionally, Galloway has written to Burns-Williamson asking him to explain why there was no transparency on the secret arrangement. 

Sir Norman Bettison resigned as chief constable last year over criticism of his role in the aftermath of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster where 96 Liverpool fans died. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has ruled that he has 'a case to answer'.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Only socialism can end the great squeeze


Owen Jones in the Independent
HAR
Britain is now suffering the longest fall in living standards since Queen Victoria sat on the throne. If this Great Squeeze isn’t the key issue of the day, the entire political system might as well dissolve itself on grounds of irrelevance and moral bankruptcy. It would be easy – but wrong – to lay all the blame at the feet of the wicked Tories, however wicked they may be. The truth is the Great Squeeze began six years before David Cameron and Nick Clegg hooked up in the Rose Garden, and four years before Lehman Brothers toppled. From 2004 onwards, the incomes of the bottom half began to flatline; for the bottom third, they actually started to drop.

But the Great Squeeze has been given renewed intensity and prolonged duration by the Tories’ hijacking of the financial crisis. As the Resolution Foundation has uncovered, one in five workers now toils for below the living wage: since 2009, the numbers have rocketed from 3.4 million to 4.8 million. On the eve of Cameron’s assumption of power, 18 per cent of women worked for less than the living wage; it’s now a quarter. 

Nearly four out of five jobs created under this government pay less than £7.95 an hour. These jobs are often precarious, too: there is now a million-strong army of zero-hour contract workers, a return to a supposedly bygone era when dockers would trek to the yard, sticking their hands in the air in the hope they might get some work that day. 


Galloway demands EDL ban


Bradford West MP George Galloway has today written to the police commissioner and the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire to demand that the proposed march in Bradford of the English Defence League is banned.


'Does anyone really doubt that this could lead to a grave breach of public order?', the MP asked. The EDL, which held a 'national rally' in London on Saturday, plans to march in Bradford on 12 October. 'This is the usual act of provocation by these yobs, neo-Nazis and racist ne'er do-wells. They must not be allowed to attempt to disrupt community cohesion in Bradford by victimising and demonising part of it. So I am appealing both to the police commissioner and the chief constable to see sense and move to stop these scum polluting our streets.'

Galloway pointed out that the police and the local authority could effectively stop the march. He cited Tower Hamlets, where the elected mayor and Respect councillors were responsible for moving a motion which led to the EDL ban. Following the passing of the motion the Metropolitan police commissioner successfully urged the Home Secretary to pass an order banning the march. Galloway said that he already contacted Bradford council leader Dave Green to enlist his support.

'The EDL may be a tiny groupuscule kept alive by bigotry and hatred,' Galloway continued, 'but we cannot allow them to goose-step through our city.'

Galloway said that he was aware that there were already moves to organise a counter-demonstration, 'but I hope it doesn't come to that,' he said.