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How George Galloway almost became MP for Rhondda

03 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Rob Griffiths, activist Tommy Roberts and George Galloway

Martin Shipton

George Galloway, who is returning to the House of Commons following his victory in the Rochdale by-election, believes he would have become MP for Rhondda if he hadn’t been the victim of a Labour “stitch-up”.

In early 1983, following the death of the seat’s sitting MP Alec Jones, Mr Galloway appeared on course to be selected as the local party’s candidate in the expected by-election. He was helped by Cardiff-born Rob Griffiths, who later became General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain.

But despite winning more branch nominations than anyone else, Mr Galloway was kept off the candidates’ shortlist.

In 2015 Mr Galloway gave a speech at the launch of Mr Griffith’s own general election campaign in Merthyr Tydfil. He explained what happened in Rhondda 32 years before.

Keir Hardie

He said: “More than 30 years ago I could have been a Member of :Parliament here in south Wales, in the Rhondda. I was the Transport and General Workers’ Union candidate to be the Labour candidate in the by-election. I came then as I come now – a bearded Scotsman in the tradition of Keir Hardie.

“I did quite well with the assistance of Robert Griffiths, who came on the first day that I arrived here although I was obviously not as well known then as I became and gave me every support, bringing me to trade union meetings and other events, introducing me to people as I sought to persuade them that really the south Wales Valleys needed a Scotsman of the firebrand contingent to set politics alight here in the Valleys.

“We managed to get more nominations than all of the other candidates put together. But at the shortlisting meeting all the other candidates combined with each other to keep me off the shortlist, in the south Wales Labour Party tradition.

“The then Welsh Secretary of the union, George Wright – he was well-named – even he had to muster some thunder about this grotesque undemocratic chicanery and the then leadership of the union were just getting ready to make an official and even a legal complaint about this when we were overcome by the onrush of the general election in1983.

“I have spent almost 30 years in Parliament since, so I guess we can say in one sense I didn’t lose anything. But you certainly could say that the man who got the gig [Allan Rogers] and the man that followed him [Chris Bryant] were both exactly the kind of Labour MP that Rob Griffiths was describing – either careless of the radical traditions of this area or worse, determined to betray them and be voices for privatisation, inequality and even war.

“But I did come away from my time in the Rhondda with two things of importance to me: the first is my now lifelong friendship with Rob Griffiths, which brings me here to help launch his election campaign, and the second is my honorary membership of the National Union of Mineworkers SouthWales are Maerdy Lodge, which is one of my proudest possessions. A lodge, presumably now disbanded, a pit, certainly now closed, a coalfield butchered and destroyed in the period of the Thatcher government.”

Mistakes

Mr Galloway went on to argue that Margaret Thatcher had come to power because of mistakes made by the Labour government before it. He said how “Tony Benn, foremost amongst all other others, had warned throughout the 1974-79 period that there was no good in being in office if you were not in power, and there was no good in having power if you didn’t use it to fundamentally change Britain in the interests of working people and their families.”

Mr Griffiths said: “I’ve known and worked with George Galloway for decades – very often on international questions. We don’t always agree, but one thing that can be said about George is that he’s consistent in his views, He’s very forthright and there’s no mistaking what he believes in. In terms of his analysis of the way people are exploited by a tiny minority, his views are the same now as they were when I first met him. And he’s always taken an anti-imperialist view of the world. He’s against the establishment and I think people warm to him because of that.

“The two main parties both have a neo-liberal attitude towards the economy, and George gives voice to the concerns of ordinary people. This is leading to a rise in populism. What George’s victory in Rochdale shows is that someone with a radical left-wing approach can get elected.”

Asked about rumours that Jeremy Corbyn, who was expelled by Labour after refusing to withdraw remarks in which he said the prevalence of antisemitism in the party had been exaggerated, will form a new left wing political party before the general election, Mr Griffiths said: “I think it’s very likely that Jeremy will stand in his own seat of Islington North as an independent socialist, but I don’t think his Peace and Justice Project will be transformed into a political party. A broad left alliance may be formed and there may be independent candidates forming part of the coalition.”


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Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Well, a lot of people in the UK voted for Brexit. Voters can be played.

Gaynor
Gaynor
1 month ago

Well thank the Lord Rhondda missed out on that! But then they got Landed with Bryant!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

So a draw for Welsh Labour stitch-ups then…

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Give me Galloway over Bryant any day ! I don’t really recall Rogers that well which must mean that he too was quite vanilla.

Richard
Richard
1 month ago

Is that the Robert Griffiths who was in Plaid and chum of Lord DET durring his then socialist phase ?

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