WHAT makes George tick? Mr Galloway, that is. He of the trademark homburg hat, popularised by Edward VII. George’s latest re-incarnation is the so-called Alliance for Unity. This aims to thwart an SNP majority at next year’s Holyrood election and so form a government of “national unity” provided Galloway has enough MSPs to be (in the Alliance’s words) “king makers”. Presumably, given the electoral arithmetic, this fantastical lash-up would be led by the Scottish Tories under Douglas Ross.

These days, Gorgeous George likes to keep exotic political company, perhaps because his initial friends on the left have grown weary of his endless opportunism. Galloway defends his weird alliances as mere tactical ploys aimed at the greater good of the working class. Thus he defended sharing a pro-Brexit platform with Nigel Farage as akin to Churchill’s wartime pact with Stalin – though George did not inform us which of these two mighty prototypes he identified with.

Last year, Galloway shared an anti-globalist platform with the odious Steve Bannon, in (of all places) a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Kazakhstan. And again, George began by claiming he was only there to “fight Steven Bannon”. But an informal alliance soon formed as both demagogues attacked the various C-list liberals who had turned up to defend globalisation. George and Steve were later seen embracing and schmoozing over lunch.

It is easy to poke fun at Galloway’s willingness to court publicity by appearing with the poster boys of the populist right. Or the embarrassing episode (for him and us) on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006, when he drank imaginary milk for Rula Lenska. Or his ill-judged praise of Saddam Hussein in 1994, when he told the sadistic Iraqi dictator: “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.”

However, the national movement in Scotland would be making a huge mistake to underrate Mr Galloway, or his capacity to sow confusion during next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.

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In another Dr Who time dimension, there is a George Galloway who became the brilliant, radical leader of a revivified Scottish Labour Party, and who championed the creation of a genuine home rule parliament sitting in Dundee or Glasgow.

That was the golden promise George held during the Thatcherite 1980s. Somewhere buried deep inside the George Galloway that exists today lies a bitter memory of that lost hope – a bitterness that will drive him to do all in his power to defeat the national movement over the next few years.

Galloway is a child of the post-war reconstruction boom in Scotland and the subsequent de-industrialisation in the turbulent, revolutionary 1970s that gave birth to the modern SNP. The son of a Scottish working-class dad, he imbibed left-wing politics at his Irish mother’s knee – including his lifelong support for a re-united Ireland, a contradiction he usually keeps well under his homburg when spouting defence of the Union.

Galloway joined the Labour Young Socialists at 13 and was chair of the party by 26 – an amazing leap that suggested a new generation of leaders had emerged capable of reforming the sclerotic, corrupt Labour machine in Scotland. But at the 1983 General Election, Galloway’s bid to be candidate in Dunfermline East was thwarted when the Labour establishment engineered the seat for a certain Gordon Brown.

At the time, many of us inside the Labour Party saw Galloway as the standard-bearer for the left and for a genuine home rule Scottish Parliament. The major caveat was that Galloway’s politics were resolutely Stalinist rather than New Left – top down, manipulative, bureaucratic, workerist, suspicious of the new feminism, and resolutely pro-Soviet.

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This was a product of the Communist Party’s then influence inside Scottish Labour, exercised through the industrial trade unions and Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC). To their credit, it was the CP-dominated unions and STUC that forced the Labour machine to accept devolution as a policy. Galloway seemed poised to lead this Labour-CP alliance in a new, devolved parliament.

WHAT went wrong? First, Galloway’s narrow Stalinism provoked the enmity of not only the UK Labour leadership under Neil Kinnock and former Communist Denis Healey but of John Smith, the liberal rising star of the pro-devolution forces in the Scottish party.

In addition, the genuine left in Labour was now represented by Tony Benn and energetic, pluralist, radical democratic, black and feminist currents around Ken Livingstone’s GLC project and its imitators (such as the new Labour council in Edinburgh of which I was a member).

Galloway could have made common cause with these new currents. But suddenly he started to show a face that has been all too common ever since: a megalomaniac and sectarian insistence on his own leadership. As a result, every political project Galloway has been associated with has foundered on his own inability to co-operate with others. This includes the Respect Party, a bizarre alliance with the Socialist Workers Party, which (predictably) split after only three years.

All Galloway’s undoubted talents – his forensic oratory and political fearlessness, such before the US Senate – only serve to buttress his own sense of self-importance. The smaller his political universe has become, the greater his Stalin-like cult of personality. He is now self-proclaimed “leader” of the tiny Workers Party of Great Britain (but not Northern Ireland) – a Marxist, pro-Brexit groupuscule run by his acolyte and Maoist firebrand Joti Brar.

What of Galloway’s latest sally north of the Border? Its real import has less to do with Galloway himself and more with the fact the Tories – directed by arch-plotter Michael Gove – see him as a tool to sow division in the working-class, Eurosceptic wing of the national movement.

One danger is that Galloway will provoke enough media attention to divert the focus of the indy campaign – such as it is, officially – towards defending the European Union rather than asserting the case for Scottish self-determination. Galloway’s local minions are also ramping up attacks on the SNP’s alleged infatuation with identity politics. They are busy accusing Education Secretary John Swinney of promoting over-explicit sex education in primary schools.

Of course, we can’t ignore Gorgeous George. We need to expose the contradictions that lie behind the bombast and demagogy. Galloway defends his pro-Union popular front with the Tories as follows: “We consider separatism – like Brexit before it – an existential question. In other words, like the Anti-Fascist War itself, one which justifies, requires making common cause with other patriotic people.”

Eh? Just what does the great working-class hero mean by “other patriotic people”? What is this so-called unifying “patriotism” Galloway shares with Michael Gove, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson? What is the common ground they are defending against Scotland’s right to self-determination?

Love of democracy? You must be joking. Love of British fair play? Ask any asylum seeker. Perhaps the patriotism that justified British oppression and dismemberment of Ireland, Mr Galloway?

George Galloway is too confused politically to be overtly pro-capitalist. But his ingrained, manipulative Stalinist approach to politics leads to absurdities, such as comparing opposition to the SNP to the fight against Nazism. And his ego – all he has left in politics – makes him blind to how he is now playing poodle to Michael Gove and the Tories.

Beware of George Galloway. He is his own worst enemy.