A footnote to PAUL SAFFER’s account of Robert Maxwell and Private Eye…
Robert Maxwell’s brash book about his successful suing of Private Eye left one unanswered question hanging: who was the Eye’s original source for the offending African junket story? The litigants attempted to find out, but naturally the magazine named no names. Subsequently, however, the source outed himself, and it was none other than George Galloway, a friend of Christopher Sylvester. Galloway was at the time a prospective Labour parliamentary candidate and crucially director of War on Want, who had originally opted not to fund one of Neil Kinnock’s trips.
In later years Kinnock and Galloway were not noticeably comradely towards each other. In 2012 the former Labour leader called the former Labour member a ‘charlatan’; he was ‘self-obsessed’ and he’d get ‘rumbled in the end’. In response, the former Labour member called the former Labour leader ‘the worst prime minister we never had’. But they hadn’t always been such sworn enemies. It was Private Eye what done it.
According to Seumas Milne: ‘Although he was not named in court, it became obvious to Maxwell and Kinnock that Galloway was the culprit … Kinnock never spoke again to Galloway, who had previously been something of a protégé, visiting the Kinnocks at home and speaking at a meeting in the Labour leader’s constituency. As a result of the Eye story, Galloway’s rapid rise in Kinnock’s Labour Party came to an abrupt end.’
Since the following year Galloway defeated Roy Jenkins, to become MP for Glasgow Hillhead, is there an alternate timeline where the Eye story never appears, the rising star’s talents are swiftly utilised by his non-estranged mentor Kinnock and – who knows?
We do not live in that timeline, but we do live in one where Galloway won a substantial libel pay-out in 1992 for a story published about him in the Mirror not long before Maxwell’s death. Luckily, Galloway did not tempt fate by immediately rushing out a gloating book about his triumph.