Thursday 8 May 2003

This campaign is an affront to justice and free speech

The Galloway saga has eerie echoes of the Scargill affair of 1990

A bell rings faintly somewhere in the back of my mind. King Arthur and Gorgeous George. Scargill and Galloway. Both larger-than-life leftwingers, guys who stand out from the crowd, controversial, iconoclastic, with a gift for rhetoric, a talent to amuse, enemies of the status quo.

Galloway is accused of taking funds from a pariah Arab regime. He immediately suspects that the documentary evidence, having fallen so fortuitously into the hands of a newspaper, is forged. Is he the victim of a plot by the secret services?

Now the bell won't stop and it is getting louder, prompting memories of 1990 when I was editor of the Daily Mirror. It accused Scargill of using miners' strike funds - allegedly donated by a pariah Arab regime - to pay off his mortgage. Despite Scargill's vehement denials, I was convinced we had the evidence.

Sue us, Arthur, I said. But look out, you're about to be covered in buckets of manure while you make up your mind. The Libyan money is only the start.

What about the supposed misuse of funds from Soviet miners and money switched through Swiss and Irish banks? What happened to the overflowing bags of cash collected by trades unionists across Britain during the 1984-85 strike? It was open season on the president of the National Union of Mineworkers for weeks afterwards. Papers could, and did, say whatever they liked.

Within two days, the Mirror's owner, Robert Maxwell, was musing to me over whether we had been "used" by the secret services in a plot to discredit Scargill. I later wondered whether the duplicitous Maxwell had been only too happy to oblige. Indeed, was he in on the plot himself?

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