IT was ironic reading that the other “Gorgeous George” in the Labour Party, the one who styles himself Baron Foulkes of Cumnock in East Ayrshire – not the Brexiter Farage ally George Galloway – has called on Richard Leonard to put the party first. It’s not always clear that George has done so, after all.

Having first come across Mr Foulkes while working as a nightshift producer at ITN, I recall a Press Association wire story flashing up one evening that the MP as he was then, and one of John Smith’s shadow ministers, had exited from a London taxi at the House of Commons in a – shall we say – tired and emotional state.

The story wasn’t that newsworthy for our national audience, despite it being a slow night. It didn’t make my list, and I hoped George’s heid would not hurt too much in the morning. Alas the tabloids did their grim work, pouring embarrassment on the hapless MP, and a conviction for being drunk and disorderly followed.

Foulkes in person is very affable. I enjoyed meeting him with my toddler as we canvassed for Cat Headley in 2016 on Corstorphine’s main street. George was avuncular charm itself to my wee boy and me.

Not long after, standing for selection for Edinburgh Council, I found that had all changed. George had been “got at” – briefed that I was a new arrival in the Labour Party and therefore an “entryist”, the smear used by any incumbent member of any organisation when new blood arrives, whether or not they’re on your side.

Sadly, George’s advisers in the local party, Edinburgh Western, didn’t trouble to find out whose side I was on, if any. In fact, I wasn’t on anyone’s side, and had joined because Jeremy Corbyn offered the best chance of social justice in a generation, if elected. This was borne out when he nearly won – and would have with the support of the entire party – in 2017.

But instead of supporting my candidacy in recognition of my hard graft for all sides of the party since the day I had joined, George and his pals pressured a rival to stand, assuring them that it would be a pushover.

It nearly was; I won by one vote, and the defeated candidate was clearly very embarrassed and annoyed that he’d been fooled into joining a factional battle. But what gets me about George is how he has the nerve to criticise Richard Leonard – a lifelong socialist and successful negotiator for workers’ rights – of not putting the party first.

After all, it was George, not Richard, who was the centre of an unseemly expenses scandal which arguably brought the party into disrepute in 2008, when he claimed thousands of pounds to stay in a flat he had inherited.

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Then there were the £90,000 of administrative costs he clocked up for questions to the Scottish Parliament, such as asking how many times Alex Salmond had met the singer Sandi Thom. Now, we all have our moments in public life, and should be forgiven if we also shine at times. The noble Baron of Cumnock has certainly tried in recent years, with a stream of House of Lords questions on a wide range of world affairs.

No doubt many of these questions are justified and valid. But the one place where the unelected George remains accountable is at his local Labour Party meetings, where comrades are usually (outside of lockdown) all ears to learn what their peers have to tell them.

Since I joined in 2015, I cannot recall one meeting where Lord Foulkes, our sole member of any representative body, has presented a report on his work there. And it’s not cheap; his latest expenses show around £4000 a month in attendance allowances alone.

But it’s the suggestion that Richard Leonard was responsible for Labour’s poor showing in the European elections last year, which gives me the biggest pang. Because it was one of George’s coterie in my local party who stated that they had refused to campaign for Labour in those elections.

Perhaps if George Foulkes and his comrades had put the party first, then Labour might well have been elected when it was within a breath of doing so in 2017. As it is, though, we are left with his best-known campaign to date as a legacy: George narrowly failed in 1981 to outlaw Space Invaders for being dangerously addictive.

Bruce Whitehead is a journalist and former Labour candidate