The rise and fall and rise again of 'Gorgeous' George

THE thrusting public persona and save-the-world polemic that has typified the volatile political career of "Gorgeous" George Galloway began at an early age.

At 13 he joined Labour. At 15 he grew a moustache in homage to his hero, Che Guevara. Aged 23 he promised "to devote the rest of my life to the Palestinian and Arab cause, whatever the consequences".

His love of invective is legendary, but, as Mr Justice Eady said in yesterday’s judgment, referring to his Saddam Hussein speech, "as Mr Galloway recognises himself, he is to some extent the author of his own misfortune".

He caused outrage when he was filmed in 1994 telling the Iraqi leader: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability."

Mr Galloway claims that the praise was intended for the Iraqi people collectively and that his condemnation of Saddam is well-documented.

His vociferous campaign against the Iraqi war made him a source of embarrassment and vexation for Labour. In October last year, after he accused Tony Blair and the US president, George Bush, of acting "like wolves" in invading Iraq, it finally expelled him for "bringing the party into disrepute".

Born on August 16, 1954, in "an attic in a slum tenement" in Dundee, Mr Galloway was taught to argue his corner by his teetotal parents - a Scottish trade unionist father and an Irish republican mother.

In 1977 he was appointed a Labour Party organiser. His firebrand speeches and charisma led to a rapid rise through the political ranks and, at 26, he became the chairman of Labour in Scotland. He was general secretary of the charity War on Want from 1983 to 1987, when he defeated Roy Jenkins to take the Glasgow Hillhead seat.

And while controversy has followed him, he has enjoyed much success in the libel courts - even before yesterday’s record pay-out, he had won an estimated 250,000 damages. His biggest win was against the Daily Mirror and its sister paper in Scotland, the Daily Record, in December 1992. That victory was the culmination of a long-standing feud with Robert Maxwell that had begun when Mr Galloway accused the Mirror proprietor of betraying Mordechai Vanunu to Mossad.

With his 155,000 Mirror winnings he bought a Mercedes classic sports car and a large chunk of Mirror shares.

Much has been made over his love of the high life: the cigars, his perma-tan, his two homes, including one in Portugal. During his most recent libel battle with the Daily Telegraph, he described his Portuguese home as a "cottage", on which he has a 72,000 mortgage. His home in Streatham, south London, was bought for 220,000 in 1996 and is jointly owned with wife, Dr Amineh Abu-Zayyadwe, a Palestinian academic.