I Would Have Voted for George Galloway, But Then He Said Gay People Aren’t ‘Normal’

‘Prejudice and stigma around gender or sexuality is a red line for me.’

by Aaron Bastani

1 May 2024

Rochdale MP George Galloway. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble

On Monday evening, I interviewed MP for Rochdale, and leader of the Workers Party of Britain, George Galloway. That same day, Galloway announced that his new party would stand hundreds of candidates at the next general election. On Tuesday morning, and with typical bravura, Galloway made more headlines – tearing Richard Madeley and Susanna Reid to shreds on Good Morning Britain when he was quizzed about his record on Iraq.

Our interview with George Galloway will be published this Sunday – and I can promise it’ll be more informative, and useful, than anything you’ll see on ITV. During our conversation, which lasted two hours, I allowed Galloway to speak at length about his views, objectives and political ambitions. 

It was precisely by having this kind of conversation, which is so often absent in legacy media, that I came to hear things that more than surprised me – they shocked me. In fact, I found Galloway’s views on homosexuality so egregious that where once I would have voted for him – had I been able to – I no longer would. In a monologue beyond anything I’ve heard elsewhere, Galloway told Novara Media he thinks gay people aren’t “normal”.

I already knew that Galloway is, on social issues, conservative. His critiques of “wokery”, as he called it in our interview, are widely documented. He is, as the adage goes, left on the economy (and foreign policy) and right on social values. Many in the UK are in a similar place – I certainly wouldn’t deny that. But as a socialist, I fervently believe in the rights of people to live how they choose and enjoy equality under the law. Prejudice and stigma around gender or sexuality is a red line. 

Galloway apparently used to feel the same way. In his 2004 book, I’m Not The Only One, he demanded that Britain, “put an end to the witch-hunting of minorities, immigrants, asylum seekers”. He said, “The incitement of hatred against ‘the other’ is tearing apart the social fabric of our country.” Elsewhere in that book he wrote about the ethos behind the political party he then led, with this inspiring its name, Respect. “We will fight for the rights of all minorities. We want our country to be a rainbow society”. Squint and you might think you are reading a Jeremy Corbyn speech from 2017. 

So when Galloway told me that gay relationships, and gay people, aren’t “normal” I was stunned. After all, who – and what – is normal? A British-Iranian socialist who started a media company? A Scottish autodidact who became obsessed with the cause of Palestinian liberation in his early 20s almost half a century ago? Am I normal? Is George Galloway?

I pressed Galloway on his use of the word “normal” because perhaps he meant typical – after all, LGBTQ relationships are not more common than heterosexual ones. But no, Galloway insisted, they are not “normal” and children should not be taught to think they are.

I couldn’t disagree more strongly. There are millions of LGBTQ people in this country – and any meaningful education will include teaching children, and young people, the basic realities of what their fellow citizens are like, believe in, and care about. Providing a blinkered view of the world, and stigmatising others, is the opposite of that. I see this as central to any meaningful leftwing politics – but also any meaningful definition of education. 

Later in the interview, Galloway said he would also like to see abortion limits significantly reduced – citing his Roman Catholic faith. Again, I could not disagree more vehemently. One can maintain private ethical views informed by faith without thinking that should inform legal constraints on the freedoms of others – particularly when it comes to bodily autonomy. That’s a basic pillar for any socialist in the 21st century as far as I’m concerned. What’s more, in a multi-religious society Galloway’s argument that private faith should inflect public policy opens a Pandora’s box of division. Whatever your personal faith, in a civilised society that can not translate into compromising the freedoms of others. Britain has the most liberal abortion laws in Europe – and that shouldn’t change. 

Unlike some, I don’t think Galloway – on public ownership and foreign policy – is a “grifter”. In fact, he has been remarkably consistent on such issues for decades, certainly more than any leading figure in today’s Labour party. Indeed, had I been a resident of Rochdale, I would have likely voted for him in February. I knew I didn’t agree with him on everything, but his election sent a historic signal to Westminster about their disgusting support for Israel’s actions in Palestine. But having heard Galloway on LGBTQ issues, gender and abortion I have changed my mind. 

I am happy to criticise liberalism for many things – but opposition to prejudice, a belief in equality, and support for women’s bodily autonomy are not among them. For those on the left, some things should not be up for negotiation as we seek to build a broad coalition to transform society. 

You can watch our full interview at 3pm this Sunday on the Novara Media Youtube channel.

Aaron Bastani is a Novara Media contributing editor and co-founder.

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