Magazine article The Spectator

It's a Great Scoop, but the Telegraph Is Wrong to Suggest That Galloway Is a Traitor

Magazine article The Spectator

It's a Great Scoop, but the Telegraph Is Wrong to Suggest That Galloway Is a Traitor

Article excerpt

The Daily Telegraph's story about the Scottish Labour MP George Galloway is undoubtedly a cracker. In some respects it reminds me of the Guardian's demolition of the Tory MP Neil Hamilton during the Major years. As a cocky, rather slimy Thatcherite of conspicuously ungentlemanly mien, Mr Hamilton represented everything the Guardian loathed. Similarly, though it may have had a respect for Mr Galloway's oratorical skills, the Daily Telegraph sees in him much that it hates. A careful reading of its full-length leading article on Tuesday morning reveals that the paper is not so much exercised by its allegations of corruption against Mr Galloway as its belief that his activity had been unpatriotic and treasonable. The Telegraph places Mr Galloway in a largely communist-inspired tradition, which offered succour to the Soviet Union during the Cold War and now opposes the Anglo-American imperium. His behaviour, in the paper's view, contaminates and undermines the anti-war movement.

When a newspaper sets out to destroy a man's reputation, as the Guardian did with Mr Hamilton and the Telegraph has done with Mr Galloway, it must expect a bitter fight. Mr Galloway says he has instructed his lawyers and, given his record for litigation, there is little reason to doubt that he will sue. The Telegraph's own reputation, and that of its editor, Charles Moore, will therefore be on the line. Mr Moore, of course, knew how high the stakes would be when he decided to run the story. Everything the Telegraph published will now be examined by my learned friends. It is in the nature of journalism that even an apparent knock-out blow such as the Telegraph has delivered against Mr Galloway can be called into question. The Guardian's difficulty in its story about Mr Hamilton's alleged corruption was that its only witness was Mohamed Fayed, a man not universally famed for his probity and veracity. We must consider the problems which the Telegraph may now face with its story about Mr Galloway.

It may be that I am not the person on earth best qualified to undertake this task on account of the many old ties linking me to the paper, but I shall strive to be fair. The first canard to dismiss is that the documents discovered by the Telegraph's David Blair in the ruined foreign ministry in Baghdad are fakes. Mr Galloway has himself suggested that they might be. Just who could have faked them? It is absurd to suggest that Mr Blair or the Daily Telegraph might have done so. I also very much doubt whether in the heat of war the allies have had the time to cook up false information about Mr Galloway and plant it in a smouldering ruin where Mr Blair happened on it, though I suppose we cannot completely rule it out. The idea that these documents have been fabricated is surely a childish fantasy.

They are genuine, yet they might conceivably be false or misleading. What an as yet unidentified Iraqi spy chief says about Mr Galloway in a memorandum to Saddam Hussein may not be gospel truth. The chief tells Saddam that Mr Galloway is in effect asking for a rise over and above the hundreds of thousands of pounds he was supposedly already receiving. Wednesday's Telegraph printed a putative reply from Saddam's most senior aide which denied Mr Galloway's request as conveyed by the spy chief. …

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