"Perhaps some of us think that the difficulties of getting over the political message on the Big Brother house are very great."
John Rees on Radio Four
Interviewer: I'm joined live by the National Secretary of Respect, John Rees. Welcome to the programme. I think you take the view that actually Mr. Galloway's constituents are still being relatively well served.
John Rees: Well they are being better served just at the moment than they are by most MPs because actually for most of the time George has been in the Big Brother house, the House has been in recess, most MP's will have gone on holiday, very few of them will have held a surgery as Respect did in Bethnal Green and Bow last Friday and as far as I know none of them will be representing the views of their constituents, the views on which George Galloway was elected, to a national audience of close to 8 million.
Interviewer: He said at the election that his constituents had been grossly abandoned by other parties
John Rees: Yes I believe that's true, most of his constituents were against the war and most of the major parties were in favour of the war. Most of his constituents are against housing privatisation but most of the major parties are in favour of housing privatisation.
Interviewer: Where will Mr Galloway be when the big vote on Crossrail comes up in the Commons.
John Rees: No, you have been misinformed. There is no big vote on Crossrail, you must not just read out the Labour Party's press release from today as if it was fact with out checking.
Interviewer: That wasn't my source for the information tell me about the other votes he is going to miss.
John Rees: No, let me correct you because you have to get the facts right. What is happening is that there is a committee stage of the Crossrail bill this week which George Galloway would not be entitled to attend and two technical motions in the House of Commons. George Galloway spoke and voted against Crossrail unlike New Labour who put it through at the last and second reading. He will be at the next reading where he will also vote against it, and he has his own petition along with other constituents on this question going through the House of Commons at the moment.
Interviewer: What about all the other votes he is going to miss?
John Rees: Well on lots of votes if you are a single MP you have very little influence over the outcome. The thing with George is that he has to do what whole major parties do with their entire staff, he has to both represent the party in the media, in international affairs, in the House of Commons, in the constituency and that involves choices and one of the choices that he made. Perhaps not everybody would have made the same choice and perhaps some of us think that the difficulties of getting over the political message on the Big Brother house are very great and indeed now Channel Four has now started censoring the political remarks that he's making, playing bird noises over the top of them, refusing last night to play his account of what made him famous outside the BB house.
Interviewer: Is it news to you that Channel 4 has editorial direction over the program?
John Rees: No but it is news to me and it will certainly be news to George, I am absolutely convinced that it was not in his contract that those kind of comments would be edited out of the program. But what ever you think about that question of censorship, the fact of the matter is that it is an MP's job to take whatever opportunity he can to get onto the media to express views of his constituents and of his party.
Interviewer: So to be clear and I think this is what you are hinting at, the constituents are going to have to take a back seat while he does his job as leader of Respect, getting the wider party view out there.
John Rees: No, not at all. He was elected on the party's policies, he was elected as an anti-war MP and he was elected because he was opposed to privatisation. I must say this, there have been now seven ballots on housing privatisation in Tower Hamlets, George Galloway has spoken at tens of housing meetings on local estates, we have won five of the seven ballots and I don't think that any other MP campaigning against the privatisation of council housing could make the same claim. George Galloway has done an enormous amount of work in the constituency, not many MP's have a weekly surgery in the way that he does. He has attempted here - and we will be able to assess the success or failure of this in the longer run - but he has attempted here to advance the political ideas for which he was elected by the constituents for Bethnal Green and Bow.
Interviewer: Other reality programs get bigger audiences what about a protest song on the X factor?
John Rees: Well there are difficulties with these programmes, I'm sure George would say likewise they are designed to humiliate and degrade the people who take part in them.
But I'll tell you what, if more serious news programs like this had reported for instance George's speech at the one thousand five hundred strong anti-war conference in London in December, if they'd reported the speeches that he made on the question of housing in his constituency then perhaps we wouldn't have to go to these lengths to get an alternative view into the media.
Interviewer: John Rees from Respect, Thank-you.
Transcript from Radio 4's PM program, broadcast on Monday 9th January 2006.
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