Who might befriend George Galloway in parliament?

George Galloway will return to Westminster (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
George Galloway will return to Westminster (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

Londoner’s Diary

George Galloway returns to parliament today but judging from the reaction to his by-election victory in Rochdale last week, he has far fewer admirers in the Commons than in years gone by.

Galloway, nicknamed “Gorgeous George”, has always been controversial but was praised for his oratorical skills and relentless capacities as a campaigner during his first stint as an MP (1987-2010) and to a lesser extent in his second (2012-2015).

But this further resurrection of his parliamentary career has left the green benches sighing. Even David Davis, a long-serving parliamentarian who has known Galloway for decades, backed out shortly after agreeing to welcome the new Workers Party MP to the House. Instead the Father of the House Peter Bottomley will have that dubious honour.

In recent years Galloway has alienated former friends on Left and Right with his brash pronouncements on everything from Julian Assange and the war in Ukraine to the Trans debate and the 2020 US election (which he says he thinks was rigged).

But he still has some friends in the Commons, and they are a motley bunch. On the one hand there is Jacob Rees-Mogg. He is superficially the opposite of Galloway in every way, with his Etonian locution and Right-wing views a stark contrast to Galloway’s Dundee diction and socialist dogma. Yet the pair are on first name terms and Rees-Mogg used to appear on Galloway’s Russia Today (RT) programme, Sputnik. They are also both Roman Catholics (at least the last time we checked).

The other friend he will be reunited with today is Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader who is now an independent MP after he was kicked out of the party by Sir Keir Starmer. The last time Galloway won a by-election, in Bradford in 2012, Corbyn tweeted: “Congratulations to George Galloway on astonishing result in Bradford. Big message here on opposition to wars and austerity.” The pair were often sat together on the bench at the back right of the opposition side of the House, where dissidents and rebels tend to linger. We expect Galloway to return to that spot today after his swearing in beside Corbyn, who also finds himself cast out of the mainstream.

Boring, snoring no more?

The prestigious Mais lecture is coming up later this month at Bayes Business School and, according to the New Statesman, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves is likely to be the keynote speaker. How interesting. It was at the Mais lecture in 2022 that the “real” Rishi Sunak emerged. Previously known as the furlough and Eat Out To Help Out man, the then-chancellor used the lecture to set out in broad terms his Thatcher-ish world view and gave heavy nod-winks about reforms he would implement were he to get into Number 10. Will Reeves, once ruthlessly referred to by a BBC producer as “boring, snoring Rachel Reeves”, use the Mais to similarly break out of her shell?

A new kind of book launch

We thought the conventions of the British book launch were fairly rigid: warm white wine on a wet Wednesday, a few signings and an early finish. But up-and-coming author Rachel Cockerell broke the mould on Friday with a till-late bash at Reference Point - the bookshop, library and bar beneath 180 Studios off the Strand - to launch her new history book Melting Point. Told almost entirely with primary sources, the book traces the story of Zionism through Cockerell’s Jewish ancestors who moved not east to Palestine but west to Galveston, Texas. Over 300 pages, Cockerell tells the story by painstakingly stitching together snatches of memoir, diaries, newspaper reports, etc. “Your name is on the cover, it almost feels like cheating,” joked Reference Point founder Jonah Freud during a Q&A with Cockerell about the book. Guests at the party included the writers Rachel Johnson, Henry Porter, Minoo Dinshaw, Lamorna Ash, Lola Seaton and Leo Robson. Journalist and documentary maker Michael Cockerell, the author’s father, was also there, looking pleased as punch.