On Wednesday 26 September the NUS Executive passed a motion denying George Galloway a platform at any of their meetings, or meetings organised by them, in response to MP for Bradford West’s now widely publicised comments regarding the rape allegations levelled against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. In the original motion, Tony Benn was also included due to comments he had made on the same allegations. However, Tony Benn’s name was removed after the former Labour MP apologised and retracted.
George Galloway took steps to clarify his position vis-a-vis rape and the Assange case in a statement sent to NUS Executive members from his office prior to the NUS Executive meeting. This follows the statement of clarification he made immediately after the podcast over comments that were clearly made in the context of the specifics of the Assange case. Did he overstate his position? Perhaps. But there is a massive difference between that and being an apologist for rape or a rape denier, both of which he’s been accused of over the past few weeks.
The key part of the NUS motion recommending that George Galloway be accorded the same status as the BNP’s Nick Griffin and other fascists by the NUS reads as follows :
2. That NEC councillors and NUS officers shall not share a platform with George Galloway, Tony Benn, Roger Helmer, Andrew Brons or other speakers who are rape deniers, and who blame and undermine rape victims.
3. The NUS shall not offer a platform to speakers who are rape deniers, and blame and undermine rape victims, nor shall it officially support any event that does.
This is clearly defamatory and actionable and suggests the NUS Executive neglected to seek legal advice before drafting the motion. The result is that they have opened the door to legal action being taken by George Galloway in response. Consequently, many members of the NUS will no doubt be angered and concerned at the irresponsible actions of their Executive in drafting and passing a motion which could conceivably cost their union many thousands of pounds in damages.
The motion was submitted and seconded by the following members of the NUS Executive.
Motion3: No Apologies for Rape Apologists
Submitted by: Kelley Temple, Jo Johnson
Seconded by: Adrianne Peltz, Caroline Dangerfield, Fee Wood, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Stacey Devine, Vicki Baars, Danielle Grufferty, Hannah Paterson, Jo Johnson, Joe Vinson, Rachel Wenstone, Toni Pearce, Emma Meehan
Below is the statement of clarification sent by George Galloway’s office to the NUS Executive on Wednesday prior to it meeting.
GEORGE GALLOWAY, JULIAN ASSANGE AND RAPE
Dear NUS Executive Member,
We are extremely surprised to learn that the NUS Executive plans to debate a motion to ban George Galloway from speaking at NUS organised events and NUS elected officers from speaking on platforms with George Galloway. No-one from the NUS Executive planning to move or support this motion has bothered to contact him or his office to seek clarification of his views on the matters that have provoked this extraordinary move, not that the NUS Executive has ever invited him to speak on its platforms in recent years.
I am however pleased to provide you with clarification of George Galloway’s views both on rape and Julian Assange, views which have been subject to widespread misinterpretation since the podcast in which he expressed views about Julian Assange.
Firstly, on the issue of rape, George Galloway has always held and continues to hold the following positions. No always means no, and never means yes. Consent must be present for any sexual intercourse or other sexual contact. Without meaningful consent, sexual contact will imply sexual assault or rape. Meaningful consent cannot be given if someone is not conscious and sexual intercourse in such circumstances could therefore prima facie imply the possibility of rape. He is also mindful that rape has been severely under-reported over many years because of fear on the part of women, and that it has proved difficult to secure rape convictions in many cases where rape has occurred. He wholeheartedly welcomes the work done by many women’s groups and others to assist women who have suffered domestic and sexual violence and to change attitudes on these issues and he deplores the closure of projects to assist women in these circumstances, and especially women’s refuges, as a result of government and local government spending cuts.
Secondly, on the issue of Julian Assange, he holds the view, based on the evidence in the public domain, that Julian Assange has been set up by those who had most to lose from the exposure by Julian Assange and Wikileaks of the support for murder, torture, rape and abuse of those whom Western Imperialism has deemed enemies of its interests or “collateral damage” as it invades and occupies other people’s countries. This is what he was addressing in his podcast, the specific issue of Julian Assange. He was not seeking to generalise on the wider issues of the definition of rape in other cases where very different factors and evidence are involved. George Galloway also believes that the extradition demand on Julian Assange should be dropped and the Swedish authorities should guarantee that he will not be extradited to the United States where he could face a life sentence in the appalling conditions being inflicted on Bradley Manning for his whistle-blowing.
I hope this will at least clarify for you where he stands. As far as we are concerned, there may be those who still disagree with his assessment of the Julian Assange case, although George’s view that Assange has been set up has been one widely held on the left of the political spectrum and by those who have examined the detail of the allegations against him in the public domain, including presumably by the Stop the War Coalition who gave a platform to Julian Assange at a rally in Trafalgar Square last year long after the allegations had arisen. We certainly do not see any justification in this legitimate disagreement for imposing a policy of no platform on him and indeed we believe such a move would bring the NUS Executive into disrepute in the eyes of many.
With best wishes,
Office of George Galloway MP