Long time British Member of Parliament, broadcaster and global political figure George Galloway has been criticised by Britain’s national broadcast censor Offcom, for allegedly failing to stimulate an atmosphere of “impartiality” on his Mother of All Talkshows during discussions of the Russia-UK dispute stemming from the matter of Sergey and Yulia Skripal. Although the story that had dominated European headlines for much of 2018 has generally faded from public interest, the wider world is still none the wiser when it comes to understanding what actually happened when the former British spy of Russian origin and his daughter fell ill after dining together in the English city of Salisbury in early 2018.
Throughout the Skripal saga, George Galloway asked many pointed and forensic questions regarding what did or did not happen to the Skripals. At no time did Galloway provide a single hypothesis which he claimed was the undisputed truth nor even a highly likely fact. Instead, Galloway offered many and in some cases competing hypotheses that he suggested should be explored by forensic experts whose job it is to solve crimes whose nature is not immediately clear. I know this because I listened to every one of his Mother of All Talkshows broadcasts in 2018.
Furthermore, I also happen to know that far from being motivated by partisan geopolitics, if George Galloway was Russian (which he is not), he would have voted for an opposition party in last year’s Russian elections. I know this because he said so to me on camera during an episode of The History Boys. What I also know is that George Galloway is a lifelong and totally consistent opponent of war and hostility between nations. Therefore, he had an unambiguous interest in making sure that bilateral relations between two nations with already shaky relations, did not become further undermined through making assumptions about a criminal act that may or may not have told the full and impartial story.
This is the job of any good broadcaster. Far from just reading out the assumptions of others, let alone standing by one’s own assumptions, Galloway allowed for multiple theories from himself, from experts and from ordinary members of a concerned public to have their views explored, challenged and discussed in a manner that was deeply conducive to a broader healthy debate on what was in 2018, a major issue. Few if any other major European broadcaster did the same during the period in question.
To say that such a thing was not “impartial” beggars belief, not least because the only thing that was not impartial about Galloway’s discussions on the matter was his view that any unwarranted deterioration in the bilateral relations of two nuclear armed states is a self-evidently bad thing for the wider world. This is the case as a deterioration in such relations would push the world closer to war and further from the peace that ought to be a universally acknowledged aim.
It has been almost a year since the Skripal story first broke and yet the world still has not found any thoroughly satisfying answers as to what really happened. And yet rather than hold to account those whose duty it is to provide the public with answers, George Galloway has been officially criticised merely for asking the right questions. If this happened in North Korea, Iran, China or Venezuela – some might call it a scandal.