EDWARD BLACK AND ALLAN CALDWELL
MAVERICK MP George Galloway will use a long-established friendship with Fidel Castro to write an intimate portrayal of the Cuban leader this summer.
The MP for Glasgow Kelvin, expelled by the Labour party last year for his outspoken views on the war in Iraq, will interview Castro to provide recollections for a photography-based book documenting the key moments in his life.
Last month Galloway won �150,000 in damages from the Daily Telegraph over claims he had been in the pay of former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.
He will also stand at the next general election for the anti-war party, Respect, against Labour MP and “Blair Babe” Oona King in her east London seat of Bethnal Green and Bow before embarking on the Cuban project.
Galloway, dubbed “Gorgeous George”, has claimed he once went for a midnight swim with Castro during one of their late-night conversations and said he was excited by the book.
“I have agreement for full, exclusive and unfettered access to all archive pictures in Cuba,” he said. “I will write narratives to go with each picture, based on a series of several interviews with Fidel Castro. It could, though, just turn out to be one meeting as I have met him several times and one hour meetings can turn into four or five hours.
“He likes to meet late at night and talk into the early hours. One time I met him at 1am and the meeting lasted until dawn.”
Galloway added that Castro was a respected figure who had survived numerous attempts on his life. “He is the most impressive person I have ever met,” he said. “A most charismatic man at 78 years of age. A total of 11 American presidents have tried to kill him and use their power to try and destroy his revolution.”
Cuba has survived more than 40 years of US sanctions intended to topple Castro’s government, and has defied predictions it would not withstand the collapse of its main supporter, the Soviet Union. But continuing hardships have led to an increase in prostitution, corruption, black marketeering and desperate efforts to escape in search of a better life.
Galloway was approached by American publishers MQ who are keen to set up a deal with the communist hero, despite a US embargo which has effectively isolated the Caribbean island and its people for decades.
The book will be based on the same format as the hugely successful Che Guevara publication entitled The Che Handbook.
It will consist of photographs from Castro’s rise to power to the present day including access to Cuba’s own picture library with the MP penning Castro’s comments and recollections on each photograph. The book is due to be published in May next year.
Galloway is also known for his love of Cuban cigars, though he remains tight-lipped as to whether he has actually been skinny-dipping with the Cuban dictator. In his book, I’m Not The Only One, Galloway writes of an incident when he went swimming with Castro. When asked to recall the anecdote during a subsequent interview, Galloway said: “You meet Fidel, you have to be prepared for a long night. If you are there on the right night, you end up in the Caribbean with Castro. It’s quite a treat. I’ll not go into what we were wearing… that would be a breach of confidence.”
Last December the 50-year-old risked his job, home and livelihood after the Daily Telegraph reported on documents found in the Iraqi foreign ministry in Baghdad. Its editorial used the word “treason” and described Galloway as “Saddam’s little helper”.
Galloway contended the documents were forgeries and won his case.
The MP will now focus his attention on overturning Oona King’s 10,057 majority. He has dubbed her a “parliamentary poodle” for her support for the war in Iraq whilst he has been nicknamed by critics as “the MP for Baghdad Central”.