A couple of weeks ago Andrew Neil wrote about the Scottish Raj, that group of state-educated Scots who have come to dominate so many British institutions:
Andrew Neil says the English should stop worrying about the invading Jocks: the northern grip on the nation’s politics, media and business is being irrevocably weakened by the dumbing down of the Scottish education system
George Galloway may not be a paid-up member of the inner circle of the Raj but he is a wonderful example of the benefits of the old system of Scots education that's been destroyed by his erstwhile colleagues. Of course, I’m thinking of his mastery of words, not his politics. George Galloway was undoubtedly the best speaker at the twenty-one events that I have attended at the Book Festival. Speaking for an hour without notes he told us that he had now addressed 1,995 public meetings since 9/11, and it showed. But what about the content of his speech? Ah, there’s the rub.
Some things I agreed with: Scottish Labour MPs are “a miserable sheep-like herd” and Parliament as a whole is “a toxic bubble of arrogance.” He told us that he saw running along the parliamentary benches “a shiver looking for a spine to run up.” A few of us knew that Galloway wasn’t the first to use that phrase, but it got the desired applause. We were told that Tony Blair was taking away our traditional liberties (true), but Galloway simultaneously supported the Left Alliance - mainly ex-Communists - in the forthcoming German election.
Galloway strongly opposed Scottish nationalism and did so far more impressively than any Labour or Tory voices that I have heard. "People in Newcastle and Liverpool aren't foreigners," he shouted. He dealt resolutely with a heckler who accused him of exhibiting the “Scottish cringe”. A big majority of the predominately Scottish audience supported Galloway on the independence question.
He thought that Kenneth Clarke would be the best choice for Tory leader as none of the others would adequately oppose Blair, but this was without any mention of the EU. On ID cards, Galloway gave us a good quote: “People trust Top Shop more than they trust the Top Men.” This was in answer to the suggestion that private companies issue so many cards that we shouldn’t worry about a government one. The audience seemed to be largely anti-ID cards.
Unsurprisingly, Galloway completely failed to understand the link between personal and economic freedoms. The people of poverty-stricken Tanzania had “rightly risen up against water privatisation”. No mention of course of that country’s history of socialist mismanagement that created the poverty, nor of the disaster of Scotland’s continuing water nationalisation.
Mr Galloway remains an unreconstructed collectivist - “Some people are poor because others are rich.” How many times have we heard that? And how many times does it need to be disproved?
As I left I turned to my neighbour and said: “Great speaker, but wrong in so many ways.” “You’re probably right,” was the reply. And I think I am.