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5 October 2012

Are Galloway and Livingstone yesterday's men?

Ken Livingstone and George Galloway

Andrew Gilligan blogged yesterday about Ken Livingstone and Press TV. I too took the Iranian rial a few times. In mitigation, the sums were tiny and like him I was suffering from the delusion that the station allowed free speech.

I think it was when I was interviewed by Cherie Blair’s sister Lauren Booth, who donned a headscarf before the cameras rolled, that I decided this was no normal channel, grasped that back at Iranian HQ they could censor my anti-Islamist remarks and had a rethink.

Did I really want to earn anything from an outfit who featured people whose views on the Middle East I despised? As well as Livingstone and George Galloway were Booth and Yvonne Ridley, a feminist journalist who, like Booth, converted to Islam and became an activist for the Palestinian cause.

The next time I was asked to appear, I said I would do it but I wouldn’t take a fee. “Why not?” asked the nice English voice. “Because it’s a propaganda channel for the Iranian regime.” He said he’d get back to me. I haven’t heard from them since.

I reckon that it’s good news that Livingstone is taking over from Galloway (bearer of the Pakistani decorations Hilal-e-Pakistan and Hilal-e-Quaid-e-Azam) as presenter of a flagship programme. Galloway is allegedly set to earn £80,000 as presenter of the hilariously titled show, A Free Word, on the Beirut station al-Mayadeen, which is – let me reach once again for the legal comfort-blanket of the word ‘allegedly’ – funded by Iran and Syria. My guess is that Galloway took that decision because he’s either a fully-fledged megalomaniac or he’s lost interest in his parliamentary career.

I know I’m a cockeyed optimist, but by committing himself so heavily to Press TV (now so biased that Ofcom no longer allows it to broadcast in the UK), could Livingstone be signalling that despite being on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee, he’s giving up on British national politics?

Ruth Dudley Edwards

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